Effects Of Blue Collar Crime
For the last decade or so our psychologists, law enforcement agencies, economists and even our political scientists have been struggling to quantify the effects of blue collar crime in Trinidad and Tobago.
Wikipedia defines “blue collar” crime as a term given to criminal acts more likely to be committed by persons of lower social class in society and which inflict direct harm on the person or property of others. This, of course is in contrast to “white collar” crime, which is generally committed by citizens of higher social class, who are more likely to be presented with opportunities to commit such crimes.
According to another website, Mojo Law, “Blue collar crime is an informal classification and holds no particular legal weight. As a matter of fact, for the most part, blue collar crime entails whatever crimes are most immediately possible for a person to commit, those that are most often spurred by passion rather than those that require careful deliberation. Crimes against the person, crimes against property and many forms of ‘victimless’ crimes such as prostitution, gambling and drug abuse, all tend to be classified as blue collar crime.”
In Trinidad and Tobago that description has now become a myth. If anything, there is a new dimension to blue collar crime – carefully laid out plans drive the new style blue collar crime and it encompasses a number of people. In our country, “blue collar” crime takes place on the nation’s streets and in our neighbourhoods every single day – robberies, assaults, burglaries and kidnappings to name a few of the offences. Sadly however, rather than the numbers decreasing, they continue to increase with every passing year regardless of who is in charge at the various levels of governance.
With the situation as it is, the crime picture remains very blue and is seemingly getting a darker shade of blue, seriously affecting the quality of life of the citizenry in more ways than one. We may dare to say “every morning blues”.
It is no secret that the effects have been, and continue to be, debilitating and widespread with victims spread across the entire gamut of our society. More than that, official statistics are seriously flawed, if only because the populace has grown so frustrated with the ineffectiveness of the law enforcement agencies – mainly the police service – that many are the instances now, when petty and even some more serious crimes are no longer reported – a sad reflection of the state of our society.
According to High Court judge, Justice Malcolm Holdip, “Because of the low detection rate in most crimes and the low conviction rate in the courts, many people have bosomed the feeling that they can do small crimes and get away with them.”
Justice Holdip believes that ineffective policing is a major cause of the upsurge in blue collar crime. He said, “Police officers have unfortunately taken an attitude that unless one’s life is in danger, then there’s no urgency for rapid response to instances of blue collar crime.” He gave as prime examples the new-found police attitude most applicable to domestic abuse or burglary. The response by the enforcement agencies almost always” leaves much to be desired”.
The Judge, touching on the influence of white collar crime in the wider community said there was also the widespread perception that people involved in that area of criminal activity were almost never brought before the courts. This allows persons accused of blue collar crime to cry out discrimination, since the track record of law enforcement as it relates to white collar crime does not measure up to anything near worthwhile or commendable.
A hardware dealer in East Trinidad recounted the numerous occasions he has been the victim of pilferage and robberies. Bindra Maharaj told CONTACT that in previous times storeowners like himself have always suffered from pilferage and the occasional robbery, but today those types of crimes are organised. “There are groups out there whose mission is to distress businessmen and they have mastered many schemes by which to rob storeowners,” said Maharaj.
“This thing is so well organised that there are levels of leadership and there are the runners – the actual perpetrators – together with an all-inclusive fence ring that guarantees quick movement of stolen merchandise. What is worse, it has been known that businessmen have sometimes bought back stock which at one time formed part of their own inventory, Maharaj added.
Again, Maharaj, like so many others, blames the lack of proper law enforcement for the proliferation of blue collar crime. He said stolen credit cards, counterfeit money and a myriad of donation scams are some of the other crimes which are becoming increasingly popular. He adds, “Our police service just does not have the competence to deal with some of these offences, particularly credit card fraud.”
But a draughtsman/contractor from Central Trinidad, had a different view about what constitutes a blue collar crime. He said too often our construction workers demand the highest wages, but put out the least work or no work at all, because of contrived illness or deliberate refusal to give their full capacity on the job site.
This view is echoed by Hilton Medford, with decades of years of experience in the construction field, who stated that more modern equipment and technologically superior products have actually helped to make the work easier, but in his view, while construction foremen usually do not have to be on guard for pilfering on the job site, they are indeed victims of adequate labour output.
Although these latter are opinions and do not fall within the accepted understanding of a “blue collar crime” (but rather speak to industrial relations policy and practice), such common infractions all impact on the acceptance of crime and the breakdown of societal rules – and ultimately, to governance issues.