Editorial

What of General Anderson's suggestion?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

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We had always known that there was widespread support among Jamaicans for the states of emergency (SOEs) which were being used by the Government to combat rampant crime plaguing specific areas of the country.

Indeed, people living in the affected communities had expressed relief at seeing police and soldiers in their areas and the peace and security they were finally able to experience as criminals went running in fear.

However, we must confess that the results of the Jamaica Observer/Bill Johnson poll on support for the SOEs took us by surprise.

The poll, which canvassed the views of 1,008 Jamaicans islandwide between January 21 and 24, 2019 found that 82 per cent of respondents were in favour of maintaining the SOEs.

Of significance also was the fact that 65 per cent of the people surveyed said they had no problem with the loss of some human rights under the emergency measure.

Our position on the Opposition's vote to end the SOEs is well known and we make no apologies for reiterating our firm view that the rug should not have been pulled from under the anti-crime measure at this time.

It is indeed painful to report the cases of shootings that have taken place in the areas that were subjected to the measure since it was brought to an end.

For those who stubbornly maintain that ending the SOEs was the correct thing to do, we wish to remind them that data from the Jamaica Constabulary Force showed that 353 fewer murders were committed across the country between January 1 and December 15 last year, when compared to the same period in 2017. In St James — where crime was spiralling out of control up to January 2018 when the first SOE was declared — a total of 96 murders were committed over the period January 1 to December 15, compared to 322 for the same period in 2017, a reduction of 70.2 per cent.

In St Catherine North, another area where the SOE was in force, 94 murders were recorded for the January 1 to December 15 period, compared to 133 over the same period in 2017, a decrease of 29.3 per cent. In the other SOE areas — Kingston Western and St Andrew South — murders decreased 25 per cent and 5.2 per cent, respectively.

Last month in this space we had pointed to Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson's suggestion of the creation of a crime-fighting measure that incorporates elements of normal policing with the security component of the zones of special operations, which are now in effect in two communities in St James and Kingston.

So far we have heard nothing from the authorities on that suggestion which, we maintain, is an idea worthy of serious and urgent discussion. For despite the significant drop in the murder toll, the country still has an abnormal crime problem.

It needs repeating that this type of crime rate is beyond the capacity of normal policing.


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