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Smartphone users impede crime-fighting efforts

Not so smart!

BY BRIAN BONITTO Associate Editor — Auto and Entertainment bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, November 30, 2012    

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TWO of Jamaica's top cops are urging smartphone owners not to broadcast information on spot-check locations as they are obstructing the police's crime-fighting efforts.

"These people believe they're helping their friends with the alerts, but they are compromising their own security," said Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Fitz Bailey, head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's (JCF) Organised Crime Investigation Division.

"When they send these messages, they are defeating our efforts. They're giving notice as to where our teams are to persons who may be wanted by the police, or may have an illegal firearm," he continued.

For SSP Radcliffe Lewis, head of JCF's Traffic Division, the matter is "is a serious thing".

"These broadcasts give criminals an insight into police operations and hamper us in the execution of our duties."

Spot checks are randomly instituted motor vehicle inspections/investigations along the roadways, with the intention of finding contraband, illegal weapons and vehicles which have been stolen or are not roadworthy.

Lewis, who retires in February, said a recent police joint operation with the Island Traffic Authority and Transport Authority in Half-Way Tree in St Andrew, they recovered an illegal 9-mm Glock pistol, two magazines and 42 rounds of ammunition. Two pounds of ganja as well as a number of knives were taken from public passenger vehicles.

"Everybody is crying about Jamaica's high crime rate. Some persons have gone to the extent to say the police are not doing anything to control crime. So why when we're out there trying to control crime and the movement of criminals, you find persons alerting criminals and prospective criminals?" Lewis lamented.

"Those persons must be criminals themselves or insane."

Last year, 1,124 people were murdered while 308 died on the island's roads. The murder figure stands at 643 since July, while 233 persons have been billed traffic accidents so far.

Lewis said no one has yet been arrested for disclosing the police's location via BBM or any instant messenger service. However, he was confident that if the law enforcers could provide evidence that the persons sending the messages were doing so to help the criminals, then they could be prosecuted.

"Such action is similar to when persons flash their headlights to alert oncoming motorists that police spot checks are ahead," he said.

SSP Lewis said members of the police force have been contending with the 'headlight alerts' for many years and — unlike other countries — motorists in Jamaica who are caught in the act cannot be charged under the law.

On the other hand, in the USA, the law to deal with such a breach varies according to State and is prohibited in Arizona, Maryland and Washington. In Australia and Ontario, Canada, such a violation could see an offender being arrested or fined for obstructing the police.

Back home, both senior cops are appealing to offenders to: "Please, stop it!"

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