McGregor: Police must reclaim communities hit by crime

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 14, 2018

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ACTING Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Steve McGregor has vowed that his plans for 2018 in his role as head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force Community Safety and Security Branch is to reclaim communities across Jamaica affected by crime.

“We are engaging communities and coming to take communities from you. We are going to get the community on our side. There are more good people out there than bad. We are going to wean the community from you and use the same community to police you,” he said, while sending a message to criminal elements in a recent round-table interview with the Jamaica Observer.

The tough-talking cop who has served the JCF for over 35 years said a community safety strategy, devised last year to make a violent community in all 19 geographic divisions safe, will be launched in the first quarter of this year.

The strategy, according to McGregor, will be driven by six pillars which have to be up, running and maintained before the community is dubbed safe.

The six pillars include a curfew programme for young people, a consultative committee, mentorship programme, active neighbourhood watch, and police youth clubs being implemented in the selected areas.

McGregor added that the pillars have already been implemented in some communities where curfew monitors have been trained and the consultative committee and other pillars are in place, making it only a matter of time before they are declared safe.

Some of the 19 communities include the two zones of special operations — Mount Salem and Denham Town — Barrett Town and Bogue Heights in St James, Belle Air II in St Ann, Prospect in Portland, and Fort George in St Mary.

“The first pillar, the curfew programme for young people, must be erected before a community is made safe. We find when we get these youngsters 17 years and under off the street by 9:00 pm, things run better. We find that gang members are recruiting these young people as they are young, more agile, can go through small spaces; they have not yet committed any crime, so it is difficult for police to find data on them; and the more gruesome one is that they are more eager to prove. It is better for you to be held up by an old person than a young person as they are more eager to pull the trigger and prove that they can do what others do,” he explained.

McGregor continued, “The consultative committee is made up of people from within the community like pastors, JPs, teachers, elders and others from within who can advise. They can deal with disputes that will arise in community and normally result in murders and reprisals and so on. So, you have a committee that is embedded and made up from the community to deal with minor disputes.”

The mentorship programme, McGregor said, will be geared towards youth as most of the problems start with them.

“We make the mistake to think that our parents are doing good parenting right now. This generation of parents have failed dismally and that is one of the reasons we are having these issues with young people. They need help; it will be an extended help to deal with young people in communities they reside,” he said.

The active neighbourhood watch, the lawman explained, will be structured to ensure everyone is their “neighbour's keeper”.

“These are not as strong as they ought to be. A particular community in East Kingston has a neighbourhood programme where they have a list of all the elderly people who live alone and visit to ensure they are up and running. They have a list of all areas where the lights are not working, where the shrubberies are high so they can bush them. It is a group that watches over the neighbourhood. They also have a list of all abandoned homes which they watch over to see if anybody takes over or commandeer them. This is a critical element,” he said.

McGregor added: “There will be a police youth club or a normal youth club implemented for these same young people to have an avenue where they can go to get more wholesome teachings and practices. This will be a controlled area so they aren't on the streets.”

Further, McGregor said community safety officers will be the first responders to any incident that happens.

“If we have all entities up and running, there should not be an issue that arises and the police is not on top of it before it grows. The networking system in all pillars would ensure you have a grip on these communities,” he said.

Additionally, the assistant ACP who previously headed the Kingston Central, Kingston Western, St Thomas, and St James Police Division, as well as the Motorized Patrol Division, said all schools within these communities will come under the safe school programme, in which you will have police officers within schools as resource officers to interface with the deviant youngsters and try to effect change.

Moreover, McGregor said this strategy is not just about getting the guns; rather, changing the mentality of the people.

“If we don't change the attitude, the behaviour won't change,” he said.

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