A few months ago, I was pickpocketed whilst going about minding my own business. A few days before this, someone tried to do the same while I was riding the bus but was not successful. The feelings of anger, frustration and invasion of privacy that accompanies such an act is indescribable. Perhaps even more significant is the temporary loss of security that one experiences knowing that someone has gone through personal documentation, only to discard it with complete disregard for the inconvenience, stress and upheaval its loss causes the owner. Until this experience, I don’t think I really understood the range of emotions felt by victims of crime, and more, why they crave a safe haven for dealing with these feelings.
The concept of Victim Support while not new to the Caribbean is possibly not as developed as it should be. A google search with these terms will not reveal much in terms of locations and contact numbers for offices in the region. This is not encouraging. It makes you wonder whether we have yet recognized the psychological, emotional, economic and sometimes physical impact being a victim of crime – no matter how petty – has on our lives.
The Victim Support Unit of Jamaica therefore has to be lauded for its work. Established since 1998, it is an arm of the Ministry of Justice designed to facilitate “Healing and Justice for all Victims of Crime”. Statistics show that over the past 7 years an average of 9,280 major crimes have been committed per annum in Jamaica. Less than 10% result in conviction. Looking at VSU’s annual reports, they have see approximately 40,000 new clients between 2002 to 2010. Sadly too large a proportion of these are children. Categories of offences that the VSU deals with ranges from rape, carnal abuse, murder, domestic violence, human trafficking, arson & property damages to name a few. That the service is completely free and offered throughout the island by a mere 35 staff members is an amazing accomplishment.
The VSU is not the only one of its kind in the Caribbean. There are others in Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados. If there are others throughout the Caribbean, it is difficult to locate them via web presence. I can only say a big “Thank you” for the outpouring of support and assistance from the Kingston VSU when I was coping with my pickpocketing ordeal. Have you ever had a similar experience? I would love to hear about it.
Check out this video for a bit more on the work of the Victim Support Unit, Jamaica: