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Is Jamaica serious about curbing crime?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

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The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has killed Duppy Film. Let us break out in song and dance and let us breathe easy.

The JCF has, it seems, one again found its aim and mission. Over the past two weeks, the constabulary has been on a roll, killing up to a dozen dangerous wanted men and having one turn himself in. Some would see this as Jamaica finally taking crime seriously, 'taking it hard to the criminals', and ensuring that they hurt no one else. And, while I am elated that these criminals can no longer cause such harm to society — as they have been alleged to (yes, almost none were tried and found guilty, so alleged) — I can't help but wonder, after the recent actions of the JCF and the majority of our reactions, are we really serious about tackling crime or do we only like the idea?

Now, before one gets to thinking that this is some article crying over the 'fallen soldier' that is Duppy Film, let me be clear: no, it is not. Individuals who commit crimes, especially those involved in violent crimes, deserve prison, and in some cases a bit more than that. However, that does not blind me to the fact that something is fundamentally wrong with a crime strategy that entails simply 'kill anything that moves',or, worse still, 'shoot first and questions be damned'. This is a strategy that totally ignores key questions, and a society that seems wilfully blind to them opens itself up to disaster.

It is no secret (or maybe an open one) that Duppy Film was well connected. Some stories say he was a hired gun and was in hot demand for a time and used by quite a few influential people. It is also no secret (again maybe another open one) that he was wanted for “taking out” several individuals.

He was found in a part of the island (his home parish admittedly) where the guns-for- drugs trade and the import/export of drugs has a reputed presence and, just like that, after years on the run, eluding a dragnet of 180 joint JCF and Jamaica Defence Force teams, was found and gunned down out of the blue. Does that not strike anyone else as strange?

This man would have had the answers to so many pertinent and pressing questions, and he was gunned down just so, after so many years of eluding everyone? To me, something smells fishy about that whole incident.

That is really the point that I am really trying to make here. This is not so much to mourn the life that was wasted because the system was set up in such a way that the young man faced a choice of the gun (with its pros and inevitable cons), because if you play by the rules you are bound to get shafted (as is the everyday reality in this nation). No, it is to simply state that, as a nation with crime and criminal elements having taken deep roots in the society and state apparatus, how can we be pleased with the killing of a person who held such key information?

Yes, in all likelihood he was the bloodthirsty killer that we read about in the papers, and that may have been the case with the countless others, but is it any real surprise that after destroying the criminal element without getting the necessary information as to who funded him/her, or who the bosses are, has only resulted in us looking to smash the 1,300 mark for murders this year? We have to get smart; just killing the criminal is only breaking a branch from the tree. For, which man living in West Street, 'working' as a day labourer, can afford a brand new AK-47? We must find out to whom they report. Catch them, hold them, convict them, wring the information out of them, and then go after the big fish. That is one of the fastest ways to put a dent in crime.

Let's not remain the same society that we have been for so long — happy with half-measures and actions that, in the long run, will only lead to national despair. Let's demand that, instead of killing every suspected wretch on sight, and in every shoot-out, the JCF ought to, instead, shoot to wound — say, a gut or knee shot, painful but not necessarily lethal. That way we can get the relevant information, lock up the actual power players, and truly start curbing this crime scourge.

Alexander Scott is a political and social commentator, legal clerk, sports enthusiast, and proud graduate of St George's College. Send comments to the Observer or alexanderwjscott90@gmail.com.

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