Columns

Lock it down for two days!

BY Evangeline
B H Devaneaux

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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It will take drastic and unconventional measures to break the back of this crime problem in Jamaica. These criminals are smart, cold and barefaced, and they treat the State with utter disdain. What better evidence than the reported cloning of the police commissioner's credit card while he held the position of national security advisor? That message was clear, they are in charge and they can “dis” the man at the very top of the security stream. Yes, they are that bold and contemptuous.

So far, the zones of special operations (ZOSOs) have, in my humble opinion, merely scratched the surface; the humongous iceberg is still intact. The reports all say that the level of crime in the ZOSOs has decreased, but yet the number of guns retrieved and the people charged remain minimal. This leads one to ask, where is the real success of these special operations? If you cannot find the guns and the gunmen, and if you have not been able to identify the source of the gun supply, and choke it off, then there is no real success, because the guns are still out there and so are the users and suppliers.

The ZOSO model of clear, hold and build is a sound one; however, it has not been very effective so far, because of failure in the “clear” phase. If you are unable to successfully execute that phase, then you are essentially building on a faulty foundation. Therefore, to declare that to date the ZOSOs have been a success is arguable.

Women — Our biggest enemy in the crime fight

I am a middle-aged Jamaican woman and it pains me to say that we are losing the fight with the criminals in this country, primarily because there are women in our midst who are aiding and abetting the criminals. That is the reality. These women are our biggest enemies at this point in time, because they sabotage all efforts at getting the criminals.

And the danger with this situation is that these women use their gender status to maximum advantage in the sense that when the security forces are searching for the gunmen, they do not dare “rough-up” any of these women (and let me hasten to say that I am not advocating any form of physical abuse) for fear of being immediately accused of “police brutality” — at which point, the human rights bloodhounds and the feminists would descend on and lambaste the alleged perpetrators. The security forces are therefore hamstrung at this time due to lack of cooperation from these women.

These women wield tremendous power and are enjoying the best of all worlds while Jamaica continues to suffocate under this blanket of criminality. They are the real power brokers in this country.

I should point out here that anyone who is prepared to collude with and shield criminals must also be prepared to be treated like a criminal, irrespective of gender. Simple! My mother always said, “Show me your company and I tell you who you are.”

At some point, there will have to be tough policing if these criminals and their weapons are to be found. And tough policing is not tantamount to human rights abuses, but the security forces will have to be firm, no-nonsense and resolute where the situation demands this. Otherwise, we are wasting time and scarce resources.

Lockdown!

Jamaica is approximately the size of the state of Connecticut in the USA, yet we have never been able to nab the majority of the criminals in our midst. In addition, a huge chunk of the national budget presently goes into crime fighting, not leaving much for nation-building. So, if we are not to throw up our hands in despair and declare that the last man out of Jamaica should turn off the lights, what do we do?

Well, my suggestion is not new or unique. Actually, I have heard at least three people make this suggestion on public radio over the past few months. What is the recommendation? Implement an islandwide state of emergency over a two-day period. That is the only way to get the guns and the criminals and to get any tangible, meaningful results. Otherwise, the criminals will simply continue to migrate to other areas of the island, where there is no increased security presence, and wait out the process.

The suggested strategy will require medium- to long-term planning and preparation; it is definitely not a quick fix. Also, the following would need to be in place prior to staging the islandwide state of emergency:

(1) clean up the police force, ie, rid it of the criminals and traitors in its midst;

(2) build at least two new maximum security prisons;

(3) identify/build an adequate number of holding areas in every parish to process those who are detained;

(4) ensure that the deficiencies in the justice system are speedily and comprehensively addressed;

(5) seek military assistance from the UK and North America;

(6) Augment the stock of helicopters, motor vehicles, marine vessels, and military amphibians;

(7) Increase the number of sniffer dogs and train them to find guns which might be buried;

(8) Train immigration, airport and hotel personnel, as deemed necessary to post members of the security forces at all the ports of entry and departure, even at hotel check-in desks.

When all this is in place then strike without warning! This islandwide state of emergency will allow the security forces to go after the criminals in every nook and cranny of this island. So, in essence, “Jamaica nah keep fi two day!”

I hope that I am not being simplistic, but I believe that with some expert fine-tuning this idea can work and should be given serious consideration.

There will, clearly, have to be trade-offs and sacrifices if we are going to win this war with the criminals. I do not know if there are any international treaties and conventions that would not allow for this total lockdown to happen but, as a nation, we have to do what we have to do. One thing is very clear, we cannot continue like this. And I do not believe that our tourist industry would really suffer greatly for it. The rest of the world — many of which also have a crime problem — will understand and be supportive. The tourists will ultimately benefit by being able to vacation in a safer environment, and Jamaicans in the diaspora who have been putting off returning to Jamaica because of the crime problem will probably return home to help rebuild the country.

This islandwide state of emergency would be just one of a suite of measures in a new crime-fighting paradigm. It would not be the silver bullet. Capacity development/empowerment and other types of personal development programmes, as have already been identified under the ZOSO initiative, would have to kick in on a larger scale.

How do we fund this? Every effort should be made to source grant funds for this undertaking. Everyone and everywhere should be approached.

Does this Government have the guts and the political will to take this bold action?

I would urge Prime Minister Andrew Holness to be brave and bold enough to stage the islandwide state of emergency. He cannot lose. History would be kind to him, and if he is worried about his political future I am of the view that his party would be in power for a very long time, because he would have demonstrated to the people of Jamaica that he and his Government are genuinely interested in the well-being of this country and its people, and not just in holding on to power at any cost. His Administration would go down as the first in Jamaica's history to demonstrably tackle the crime problem head-on. He and his party would earn the respect and admiration of every well-thinking Jamaican.

And if we are to have a fighting chance, for God's sake, I am asking the human rights activists and those women shielding the gunmen to work with the security forces, not against them.

blackpearl312@hotmail.com

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