Bipartisan approach needed in crime fight

Monday, January 20, 2014    

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BETTER late than never.

At last Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has come out swinging vigorously against the "monster" of crime.

In their New Year's messages, both Mrs Simpson Miller and Opposition Leader Mr Andrew Holness had strong words on the issue.

And last week, Mrs Simpson Miller went one better. Not only should Jamaicans "unite" against crime, but communities, she said, had a "big role" to play.

It's a position this newspaper has consistently taken and the available evidence underlines it. The police say that communities with organised neighbourhood watch programmes and other strategic partnerships with law enforcement have much lower crime rates than others. The latter, unfortunately, are the massive majority.

The challenge has always been to organise, mobilise and motivate leaders and residents in communities through the length and breadth of the country — from farm village to city — to co-operate with each other and with the police.

Without strong and purposeful leadership and organisation within communities, individuals and their families will often succumb to fear of criminals and simply refuse to become involved in co-ordinated anti-crime efforts.

We are aware that the Social Development Commission (SDC), with limited human and material resources, has been working hard to build community leadership and organisational capacity. There is the hope that eventual passage of the long-awaited Local Government Reform Act will strengthen that drive.

That said, we believe a bipartisan movement at the constituency and community levels could help to boost that unity and organisation which is crucial if criminals are to be isolated and defeated.

What if not just the member of parliament, but the constituency caretaker — representing the minority party — were to come together with the police, the SDC, the neighbourhood watch movement and others, public and private, to build anti-crime groups?

What if the prime minister and Opposition leader were to join hands in partnership with the police and all allied agencies to motivate and organise our communities against criminals?

That would fit seamlessly into our suggestion made in this space to "remove crime completely out of the arena of partisan politics".

It's been said that our political parties no longer actively promote political violence in this country. What is beyond dispute, however, is that their 'tribal wars', particularly in the late '60s, '70s and '80s, fuelled — some would say spawned — the existing gun culture.

Their hands are soiled.

If at this point our two major political parties find it impossible to join hands with the rest of us in fighting the crime scourge, then as a society we should seriously rethink their value.





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