Editorial

Petty political nitpicking won't help communities in need

Friday, September 08, 2017

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The request from the National Security Council (NSC) for the police force to review its systems of data collection and collation to ensure that there are no systemic challenges is most important because any serious attempt to combat crime must rely on accurate data.

Readers will recall that this request came after it emerged that the murder figures provided by the police for Mount Salem and its environs were challenged after that area was declared the first zone of special operations (ZOSO).

At the news conference, a week ago, to announce the ZOSO, Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake, in announcing murder figures for “Mount Salem and its environs”, said that the number in 2014 was 46. The number rose to 70 in 2015. The following year it jumped to 85, and so far this year the number recorded was 54.

However, residents of that community, the Opposition, and people in Montego Bay were adamant that there were far fewer than 54 murders committed in that area so far this year.

That triggered a lot of hand-wringing about the operation, with some people even suggesting that the anti-crime initiative should not have been implemented in Mount Salem.

Then came the political football game as fanatics on both sides of the divide went to sea, blinkered by the fact that the it is the country that has a serious crime problem.

Arguing over the year-to-date murder toll in Mount Salem does not detract from the fact that the community, like so many others in Jamaica, needs help. That the area is included in police data suggests that it is being plagued by crime.

A profile of the community done by the Social Development Commission from a socio-economic survey conducted in 2009 shows that the priorities listed by residents are high levels of unemployment, poor representation by elected political representatives, poor roads, poor parenting, and crime and violence.

We would have thought, therefore, that the social intervention programmes included in the package called ZOSO should have been embraced by the people who are now pretending to care about the welfare of this community.

We cannot disagree with the call for the constabulary to provide accurate data because that speaks to credibility as it assists the authorities to plan how best to help communities.

The NSC is also correct in its insistence that it is unacceptable for people in Mount Salem to be living in fear and that the violence in that community, and its influence on neighbouring areas, support the original recommendation and decision to establish the ZOSO.

We note that the Social Intervention Committee has met since last Friday and we expect that they are putting in place all the components necessary for community and peace building.

National Security Advisor Major General Antony Anderson recently reiterated that the social element of the initiative involves programmes in housing, production and employment, as well as skills training all designed to create sustainable change.

That, we hold, is what the country needs; not petty political nitpicking.

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