Editorial

Caricom co-operation on crime a splendid idea

Thursday, July 13, 2017

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There is strength in unity, and Prime Minister Andrew Holness shows that he gets it, at least in the seemingly unwinnable fight against crime.

Mr Holness's proposal to his Caribbean Community (Caricom) colleague heads, that they place crime on the agenda for future sittings of the organisation, is worthy of serious thought.

One could take the cynical approach that his call is an admission that the Government of Jamaica cannot deal with crime and now needs to seek help from regional countries — which has an element of truth.

Or, one could agree that no one country can fight crime alone and the pooling of resources and coming together of like minds to tackle one of the region's most intractable problems is far more likely to yield the results we so badly want.

Mr Holness argued that the Caribbean is one of the regions experiencing the highest rates of crime and violence, singling out Jamaica which is way worse than most of the Caricom territories.

“…We have a major (crime) problem and we need to study it. We need to treat it the same way as we treat non-communicable diseases; to raise public awareness; to mobilise government effort and action, not wholly and solely on the security side, but on dealing with the issue from the macro-social side,” Mr Holness told the Caricom summit, which ended last week.

Mr Holness said he was convinced that regional leaders could learn from each other and tackle the problem as a whole. He noted that a report by the United Nations Office on Crime in 2013 showed that there were 430,000 homicides in the world — half were committed in 20 countries and 10 of those countries were in this region.

We suggest two possible areas in which we think regional co-operation would most likely yield real dividends in reducing crime: First is the construction of a multi-national witness protection programme that would respond to the well-known fear of reprisal which constrains many people from telling the police what they know.

Second is the setting up of a Caricom crime fund that would be available for resourcing police forces across the region, based on need. Obviously, Jamaica would have the greatest need and so would be expected to contribute accordingly.

The funds could also assist with the operation of the regionwide witness protection programme and finance an exchange programme that allows each territory to send police officers to work in other countries on secondment.

Additionally, such a fund could establish a crime secretariat not unlike Interpol, to ensure the consistent sharing of information on the movement of criminals from one country to the next.

Mr Holness committed to producing a paper and circulating it to members of Caricom on the crime matter facing the region. It is expected to be fully raised at the next intercessional meeting in Haiti in February 2018.

We hope that this is an area which will find support among all political elements in each country and give the region a chance to get on top of the crime problem, for the peace of mind of our citizens, visitors and investors.

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