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What's really the crime strategy, Minister?

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

 

The following is an open letter to Robert Montague, minister of national security:

 

Dear Editor,

There is no secret that crime and violence have occupied the mind of every concerned citizen of Jamaica. You seem to be a reasonable man who listens and takes advice, hence my public communiqué to you. I believe my letter speaks on behalf of many Jamaicans, both here and in the Diaspora.

Sir, the crime portfolio, in my mind, is the most difficult. However, all Jamaicans expect that you give a full account of every strategy, decision, and policy that you use in addressing the scourge that has plagued this nation for many, many years.

I have been trying to figure out what is your real focus, but I have come up nil. What are the areas in the crime portfolio that are occupying your attention? I have no doubt that you do have some areas of focus, but we all need to hear them. Is that asking too much of you? Please share your focus with us.

Does Jamaica have a gun problem, a gang problem, or both? If so, do you have, along with your commissioner, a strategy to reduce the flow of guns and the dismantling of gangs? Without giving critical information to the criminals, please share with the nation the strategy.

Is the zone of special operation legislation your main crime-fighting strategy? I hope not. What are the others?

How much money do you really need to bridge the resource gap in effectively fighting crime? Let's just suppose you get 85 per cent of what you need, what will you be spending the money on?

Minister, I believe the nation needs information on where we are and where we are heading. We are all in this together.

I also ask you to consider the following suggestions:

1. It is time for your ministry, in partnership with the Opposition and private sector, to plan and execute a national summit on crime and violence.

2. Present to the nation a comprehensive national security crime plan to reduce the number of homicides by at least 50 per cent by the year 2022. The Economic Growth Council is aiming for '5 in 4' — I do hope that's still the target — and they have presented a clear strategy of how this can be done. You assign your Security Programme Oversight Committee to craft this strategy? And, don't leave out the Opposition People's National Party. This time, please send the party a formal invitation.

3. It is time the island is blanketed by public and private closed-circuit television technology. Develop a strategy in this regard and, while we embark on putting more eyes out there, please ensure we put in place the legislation to allow judicial proceedings to make a video from the video surveillance evidence admissible in criminal cases.

4. Tell us, without details, what you will do to strengthen the witness protection programme. My understanding is that it could do with a shot in the arm.

5. If guns are a part of the problem, let's have an Illegal Firearm Eradication Unit (IFEU) within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). The introduction of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency was a great idea; in the same way, let's have an IFEU.

6. There should be a strengthening of the border patrols and the implementation of rural police units. Any such plans?

7. Crime fighting is about intelligence and collaborative inlet, I am suggesting a strengthening of the intelligence units of the police and army in driving operations and other strategies. Do this quietly? Don't mention it in your speech to the nation, which I am sure will come.

8. We also need an innovative community policing strategy, something out of the box that will be funded by the private sector. Enlist the help from Generation Z in coming up with this strategy.

9. Address the issue of morale in the police force and, while you are on that, ensure there is a strengthening of the human resource practices including recruitment and equitable and timely promotion of officers.

10. We must modernise the JCF! The time is now. Maybe another time we can talk about what modernisation means and what it would look like. Jamaicans would welcome this conversation, Sir.

Minister, we are waiting to hear from you. I will be tuning in!

 

Henry J Lewis

hjlewis@utech.edu.jm



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