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12 items for the 2014 crime-fighting To-Do list

Grace VIRTUE

Tuesday, December 31, 2013    

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WE talk about crime now to the point where it is almost clichéd. We have a sense that our large cohort of uneducated, poorly socialised, unemployed and unemployable males means that there is a ready cohort susceptible to the dark side, and we need to do something about it.

On the crime-fighting side, some of us understand that, through no fault of Police Commissioner Ellington, who is earnest and hard-working, the police lack the capacity to effectively address the challenge. Otherwise, we would not have a 29 per cent murder cleared-up rate — an F on all the grading scales that I know — and that in a context where cleared-up can mean anything other than a perpetrator being brought to justice.

We recognise, too, that the leadership of the national security ministry has a frustrating ambiguity to it. Minister Bunting sounds good on paper. He sounds like he is on the ball. But there is this niggling feeling that he is disconnected from the situation at the street level; that he is dealing with crime/national security purely as an intellectual exercise, not as something that is devastating people's lives every day and choking our economic prospects.

It's not about being a loud mouth. It is about feeling the pain and the devastation and demonstrating that he has the passion and the problem-solving skills to do something about it.

Effective leadership has to do this, but Peter is dispassionate.

I would like to see signs of outrage and resolve. I want to feel his urgency. I want to understand how he will operationalise his plans to "interrupt the transmission of crime and violence, 2) prevent future spread by improving the capacity of our security force to respond to crime, and 3) change group norms".

It's not about a doggone app that which features ireport and panic mode.

People are stuck in panic mode. They are reporting every day. They are seeking assistance from the police every day. If anyone needs an app to help them do their jobs better, it's the police.

In the struggle, ponder these ideas for the crime-fighting to-do list.

1) Mandate that all crimes be treated seriously: Every time a law is breached, without consequence, it weakens the entire fabric of the society and it makes the police's work that much harder. To create a disciplined space, the police must act appropriately when laws are broken.

2) Establish and inform the public of mandatory police response time: Failure to respond at all, or in a timely manner, is a constant complaint. If a would-be criminal knows that the police will show up in three minutes, it is a powerful disincentive. This is crucial and it is operational and measurable. It is a must-do and it should be relentlessly tracked, evaluated, and reported on.

3) Better utilise the network of police stations: The stations represent jurisdictional manageability, including the opportunity to know communities intimately. At this level, communities should be fully mapped and officers aware of trouble spots and troublemakers. For every shift change, street/community patrolling should be mandatory, strategic and intentional. This automatically translates into increased police presence on the streets and in communities -- another powerful deterrent. Of note, the first responder to a 911 call in the US is the patrol officer closest to the scene -- not one waking up from a nap at the precinct.

4) Promote and expand the use of technology: Traffic cameras, closed-circuit televisions (CCT) and computerised patrol cars are basic crime-fighting tools. Cameras and CCT capture the flow of activities at specific locations on an ongoing basis. They should be strategically placed along major highways, in urban centres and rural junctions. Computers, meanwhile, facilitate quick data availability and sharing.

5) Integrate motor vehicle licensing/registration with crime control: Motor vehicles are often used in the commission of crimes. It should follow, therefore, that they provide more readily identifying data. Add the parish of registration to the licence plate.

6) Ban music that explicitly promotes violence: Instigating violence, regardless of medium, should be a serious criminal offence. Never mind Damion Crawford, he will be ashamed of himself when he grows up.

7) Strengthen the penalty for aiding and abetting criminals: Educate the public and enforce it.

8) Establish a unit to coordinate with churches, NGOs and private sector on social-intervention programmes: This will facilitate organised and consistent delivery of goods and services to vulnerable communities and combine available resources for maximum effect. It is also an opportunity to work together.

9) Establish a national identification system: When a child is born, he/she is registered by parent. When the child turns 18, he/she should, within 30 days, register with a dedicated State agency. He/she is assigned a TRN, photographed and fingerprinted and key personal data captured and encrypted in the card, renewable every 5/10 years. The card serves as an official identification for all purposes, including voting. If the individual applies for a driver's licence, the card is traded in and the information transferred to the licence.

10) Establish cross-functional databases among relevant state agencies: With or without a national identification programme, the police, in pursuit of a wanted individual, should be able to tap into the motor vehicle registry or the social security database and match a name with a photograph and other identifying information. If data is disaggregated by parish, for example, and cross-referenced by first and last name, "Oniel" from St Catherine becomes easy to find.

11) Seek professional expertise: Paying for specialised training in crime prevention and control will be money well-spent. The police needs it.

12) Improve remuneration for the police: Professionalising the force also means paying them better to reflect their high-risk situation.

Ultimately, the most sacrosanct of all rights is that to life. Without that none other makes sense. This is why we must break the back of our crime problem.

gvirtue@usa.net

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