SEATTLE, Washington — The Dominican Republic is a middle-class country filled with rich, diverse culture located in the Caribbean that has made progress with its economy. However, one can still find people living in impoverished communities within the country where crime is prevalent. Crime and poverty are two inextricably connected issues. This piece will focus on the correlation between crime and poverty in the Dominican Republic while revealing insights from people who have experienced the country’s poor living conditions and how the nation deals with crime.
Poverty in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a country with more than 10 million people. Currently, 40.4% of the Dominican Republic’s people live in poverty, and 10.4% are in extreme poverty. Most poor people who suffer in impoverished conditions are located in urban neighborhoods and often must fend for themselves.
There are several causes of the country’s poverty, including natural disasters and government corruption. Jennifer Bencosme, a Dominican woman who spoke to The Borgen Project, explains her belief that many people want to leave the country to find better living and working conditions. Poor people in the country live off low-quality water, unstable homes and a lack of food sources.
Bencosme described impoverished conditions in the Dominican Republic and expressed that many children do not have enough clothing. Some parents have to give everything they have just to survive. In the conversation, Bencosme touched on aspects of crime that often come with residing in a poor neighborhood, “People live in fear because they are a prime target for delinquents since they do not have any security.”
When asked what she thought about resolving the issue of poverty in the Dominican Republic, she suggested that reforms need to occur within the government to hold leaders accountable for their lack of effort to contribute to their own country. She also believes in educating people on how poverty affects different communities and, in many cases, forces people to commit crimes to survive.
Crime in the Dominican Republic
Crime in the Dominican Republic has remained an issue for its citizens throughout the years. In September 2019, there were more than 700 reported homicides. According to the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council, “Nearly 65% of all homicides between January and September 2019 occurred during a robbery or attempted robbery.” Theft is one of the most common kinds of crimes reported to the police in the Dominican Republic.
Diana Camilo, a student at Marymount Manhattan College who also spoke to The Borgen Project, has experienced living in the Dominican Republic. Her family, like so many others, came to the U.S with hopes of a brighter future. Camilo states, “Impoverished communities in the Dominican Republic are the most dangerous and unsanitary places in the country… Most of the time, they have no light, no food and the kids are always undressed and walking barefoot.” She also addressed the fact that “since these communities are filled with people with needs, many become ‘criminals’ to support their families. Since more than 30% of the Dominican Republic’s families are below the poverty line, the Dominican Republic’s crime rate is ultimately high.”
The Dominican Republic needs to address and improve the issue of poverty first in order to sustainably decrease crime rates. Thus, it is important for the country to consider how improving the education system can help to lower poverty rates. Camilo believes in giving back to her community in any way she can. One way she helps is by sending boxes full of food and other essential materials. With more resources, people won’t feel the basic need to steal. She and her family, therefore, believe donations can help both the rates of crime and poverty in the Dominican Republic.
Correlation Between Crime and Poverty
There are connections between crime and poverty, however, they are two different phenomena where one is the other’s outcome. Crime includes committing lawless acts like robbery and homicide. Meanwhile, poverty is a condition people suffer that makes them unable to access resources like clean water and health care.
In 2017, 76.6% of people living in the Dominican Republic believed crime is the country’s main issue, and unemployment was second at 44.6%. Also, 76.5% of people believe the cause of crime to be unemployment. The subsequent income inequalities bring on great suffering, leaving many in a survival state of mind. This can lead to desperate people committing crimes like theft.
Education reform is one solution to solving both the issue of crime and poverty. When there is a quality education system, people are more likely to feel motivated and determined to become educated. In the literal sense, people who are learning are productive, leaving less time for them to commit crimes. Also, educated people gain more employment opportunities to get them and their families out of poverty.
Organizing and investing in community programs can help impoverished people, especially children, with their health, education and future. Events and programs allow people to become active in their community and figure out the necessary steps to overcome poverty.
With poverty on the rise due to the recent coronavirus pandemic, the Dominican Republic will likely continue to see an increase in unemployment. That increase will cause and has already caused spikes in poverty. Even though poverty and crime rates work in tandem to afflict the people of the Dominican Republic, they can progress with the reform of their government and education systems.
– Amanda Cruz