Columns

Will PM Holness save his people?

Franklin
Johnston

Friday, October 05, 2018

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Crime has been atop of our agenda for decades. It is insidious and intractable, and the brutality of murderous black men is amazing.

Our crime stats float like our dollar and the arc inclines to more murders, despite some respite recently. Stats be damned! Unless killers are caught and guns found they are still out there; ready to strike.

In war a leader saves his people. What about Andrew Holness, our prime minister? He says crime undercuts our economy, thus his priority is not achievable unless he rids us of this scourge. His predecessors did not, but he is different, so show them. Get involved and save us!

National Security Minister Horace Chang was brutally frank about the police. They need surgery. Of the three 19th century jobs which traversed to the 21st-century, policing is most backward. Entry requirements are at secondary level, while teaching or nursing require a degree. Why was it left behind?

Did this affect corruption, violence? Police success is less about the act and more about self. In the last Administration ministers Ronald Thwaites and Peter Bunting pulled together a team to develop a diploma in security studies (law, civics, statistics, report writing, etc) for community colleges to be the recruiting level for the police college. In time it would become the standard for private security, military, ports, forest rangers, courtesy corps, etc as youngsters would go to a college close to home all over the island. But as police is the plum job, in three to four years it would recruit diplomates with experience as its entry level. Where is this project now?

No political party has a remedy for crime. We are in the hands of God, but we bury more of our young than any other generation. Even in slavery rapine and the murder of young girls was no worse than now after two centuries of education. We are in thrall to an intractable foe. Murder stats get better, but fear stalks the land. In times of war a leader takes over, and we are in a war of attrition, so man up, Andrew!

The answer to crime is simple, but not cheap or easy. Police must catch miscreants, build good cases, get convictions and the guns. It takes innovation, commitment and leadership. The murder 'clear-up' rate is some 40 per cent; many killed in shoot-outs, guilty or not? So here are some ideas. First, Prime Minister Holness, our young 'commander-in-chief', already controls the army, so take police too and lead the charge!

The solution is to pre-empt and to interdict simultaneously.

Family life, role models and school pre-empt crime by creating the new Jamaican; but it takes years. A cohort is 37,000 to 40,000 kids at age three, four, five, and up, so we must fix school to get behaviour change. Starting at early childhood it will be 15-plus years (@1,600 bodies a year) before we see the kinder, thinking Jamaican. Yet, laws with teeth can change conduct in months, but Andrew is no Lee Kuan Yew, and will not forfeit European Union, British aid for crime. To catch criminals and their AK-47s he must innovate, trust citizens, ignore Europe, and spend the next two years saving our lives.

Community action is crucial as crime is embedded. “Clear, hold, build” is not for criminals who have families in the very district they terrorise. For example, the London police are helped by community and we cite three bodies. Police Community Service Officers (PCSOs) are trained, uniformed civilians who do routine school, street and office work. Another force trained on weekends, do police exams; uniformed, empowered and deployed for agreed hours; farmers, lawyers, managers, teachers, trades — volunteers. Then, Shomrim is a uniformed, volunteer neighbourhood watch with anti-terrorist and Security Industry Authority training. Mostly Jews, they are mobile, on the streets 24/7, private but relate to local police. These are robust community efforts and Dr Chang must consider making our neighbourhood watch a community militia to save our nation.

The Gleaner story 'Arm them!', of September 22, 2018, speaks to the angst of a Member of Parliament. Legal guns are no problem, so arm those who meet the criteria and wish it — not everyone! The man whose legal gun was stolen from his room to aid a rape in the same hotel is rare. If a third of gun owners and others volunteer six hours a week — as those in Britain — to monitor traffic, schools, parking, community patrols, office work, it would be like having 1,000 new police. Then detectives could focus on 'big' crime.

A national identifier and housing are crucial to fighting crime. A national identification system (NIDS) ensures all can be identified. And by requiring a current address all can be found. Up North it's a crime not to update your address; so find an address and you find a name, find a name and you find an address.

Cabinet must incentivise private investment in mass rental housing and new houses for buyers or the NIDS will not work well. Detective work will be easier when “no fixed address” is illegal.

Prime Minister Holness must go where none has gone. Lead the charge on crime. We back you! This was the oath you swore on taking office. Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and lectures in logistics and supply chain management at Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.

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