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Why Petty Crime is an ongoing issue

Petty crime in Port Moresby is a concern for most of the city’s inhabitants. People, especially women and girls, want to live in an environment where they do not always have to be on guard; where they feel vulnerable in public places.

Gordons market is an area in the city that has a reputation for criminal activities. It may be dubbed ‘the hub’ in our city. I am not just sitting in my chair in the office writing this but I have seen with my own eyes how people become victims of petty crime.

This morning a young lady was harassed at Gordons market by a group of youth. They demanded for 50 toea from her and became intimidating towards her. Feeling threatened by the youth she decided to make a run, one of them caught up with her and grabbed her hand bag and cut off the handle and made away with her bag. She ran straight for a cab and was driven safely to work. Although she had no valuables in her bag the experience was one that she wishes no one has to go through.

With some research, I gathered some reasons why people commit crimes.

Losing control of one’s emotions and physiology

There are many stories, very diverse from one another, all of which seem to derive from the lack of control of one’s emotions.

Someone’s girlfriend or wife decides to severe their relationship with a man, but they physically assault them or even kill them in their partner’s rage. Someone is arguing with you over issues as mundane as a sporting event, and tempers fly out of control, and before you know it, a fight has broken out, and someone is left in the hospital, even to death. Someone keeps harassing you, or bullying you, so you also take the matter into your own hands.

Whatever the case may be, whether it leads to hatred, anger, impatience, revenge, ambition, pride, or other emotional states, losing control of one’s emotional state can lead to reactions that end in crime. You get extremely sexually aroused, and don’t have someone to take care of your needs, and instead of realising that it might be better to take care of yourself, you force it onto someone – you rape some woman rather than practicing self-control. Poor judgment may also be included in this category, because if you were better able to practice risk-benefit-consequence analysis, you might have better controlled your behaviour.

Connections with drug and alcohol

Perhaps the person is impaired because of too much alcohol, and ends up doing something that they would not have done without impaired judgment, which would have left them in a state to more clearly see consequences to their actions, and develop the mindset to fight the feeling or thought.

We have, of course, heard many times the story of an abusive father and husband, who are in that state because of being an alcoholic. Or, there are the people who are addicted to drugs, and don’t have any more money to pay for their next dose of whatever it is they are taking. In desperation, they rob someone at gunpoint, or rob a store, or attack someone for their money, or burgle a house, in the hopes of getting that cash they need for that next hit, so as not to go through the pain of withdrawal. Then, of course, there are the street vendors and the more powerful drug lords who, in order to maintain control of their territory, or gain control of someone else’s, decide to perform violent acts, such as murdering their competition, in order to keep their upper hand.

Bad influences

We find that many times a person, especially people who are habitual criminal offenders, commit crimes because that is all they know, from the environment that surrounds them, and/or because of the peer influence around them. Perhaps they are from a bad neighbourhood, and the only people they see getting ahead in life, or getting out of the misery of poverty and hopelessness, are the people who do some sort of illegal, or criminal activity. They learn the techniques for pick pocketing, or stealing a motor vehicle, and get all the ‘encouragement’ they need to go into such endeavours from the people around them. There are also the young people that feel very threatened by their surroundings, or may have even been attacked or hurt before, maybe on many occasions, and feel they need some protection, and the only protection they seem to find is offered in street gangs, many of which go about committing an abundance of crimes.

Wrong moral Choices

A good number of the crimes committed by people who aren’t influenced by substance abuse or losing control of their emotions, particularly when it comes to property crimes like theft, larceny, and motor vehicle theft, do so, out of deliberately choosing to do that act, even though it is considered unethical and immoral. Making the wrong moral choices is closely linked to the bad influences mentioned above. In these cases, the person knows that they shouldn’t steal or perform other violent acts, but doest not care, and decides to do it anyway.

Poverty and homelessness

There are those that believe that there is a strong connection between poverty and homelessness, and the amount of crime in an area. This theory is known as strain theory, in that social strains on individuals, to achieve upward financial mobility, are causing those individuals to act out in ways that are illegal, since legal means to achieve that upward mobility are not available to them.

In this case the main perpetrators are youth, unemployed youth. A young man from Joyce Bay Settlement in Port Moresby was asked why youth go about committing petty crimes, his response was, “we do this because we have no jobs and the government does not care about our well-being, we need to feed ourselves.” Most of the youths in that area had similar answers, “we just want to live”.

There seems to be some evidence to suggest that poverty is not a cause of crime, but is reflective of the kind of social behaviour that also leads a person to want to commit crimes. In other words, criminal activity has more of a correlation to poverty and homelessness rather than being caused by it.

There are other reasons why people do what they do, in this case why youth continue to cause social discomfort for women and girls and even men. Stay tuned for the possible solutions to the ongoing problem of petty crimes in my next article.

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