Editorial

Fighting crime with hope

Monday, May 15, 2017

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Not for the first time National Security Minister Robert Montague has urged more attention to community policing by the Jamaica Constabulary Force.“With all the modern technology, all the pre-owned cars (being bought), the drones, closed circuit television, more police, and better weapons — all of that will come to naught if we don't engage the Jamaican public and take them into our confidence,” Mr Montague told a graduation ceremony for police recruits last week.

No one can seriously argue with that. Involvement by police in community building must be part of a balanced multifaceted approach to crime-fighting.

Indeed, it's widely expected that this approach will be central to the leadership of new Police Commissioner George Quallo.

We expect that there will be continuing and increasing emphasis on police leadership and involvement, not only in neighbourhood watches, but also in youth groups, sports clubs and citizens' associations, et al.

Also, central to success must be trustworthiness, professionalism, and well-mannered, humane behaviour by individual members of the police force during contact with the public.

The truth is that much good work by individual officers of the law has been undermined by colleagues who indulge in corrupt, rude, crude, and brutish behaviour.

We note that, in line with his predecessors, Mr Quallo has pledged to continue the push against corruption in the force.

A man of refined manners, we know that Mr Quallo will also be emphasising to all the people under his command the importance of utmost respect and good behaviour when dealing with the public.

Of course, much of the unfortunate aggression and coarseness exhibited by some men and women of the constabulary can be traced to their own experiences on the job. Jamaica, after all, has one of the highest crime rates in the world and the police are a constant target of criminals.

We well remember back in 2009, then Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green commenting on the extraordinary difficulties for police operating in Jamaica's urban shanty towns and in some rural areas. It's safe to say that nothing in his native Britain had prepared him for the narrow zinc fence lanes and gully banks of many Jamaican inner-city communities.

So, allied to community policing must be the push from within communities themselves — even the poorest, most depressed — to shun criminals and embrace law and order. That becomes more likely to happen if there is a persistent, coherent drive on the part of Government with support of the private sector and so-called civil society to bring hope to people at the lowest socio-economic level.

That's why it is so important that upliftment initiatives such as the Government's Housing, Opportunity, Production, and Employment (HOPE) apprenticeship programme, aimed at significantly reducing unemployment among youth, prove successful.

If there is real reason for hope, if people, especially young people who are now marginalised and disenfranchised, can see a way to a better life through legal means, it becomes easier to organise communities to help themselves and to push criminals to the margins.

If, as a society, Jamaicans can find a way, over time, to beat poverty and hopelessness, they, hand in hand with the police, will have gone a long way in beating criminals.

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