Commendable, Commissioner Ellington

Monday, December 24, 2012

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AMONG the admirable aspects of Mr Owen Ellington's tenure as police commissioner have been his public relations savvy and a willingness to share information with the membership of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the public at large.

His detailed Christmas Message published in yesterday's Sunday Observer bears eloquent testimony.

Mr Ellington tells us that while there have been only marginal reductions in 2012 compared to the previous year, he is confident that the 2017 target of 12 murders per 100,000 of population remains achievable. At the end of 2011 the ratio was 42 per 100,000, down from 62 per 100,000 in 2009.

As we all know, while murder is not the only 'serious crime', it is the base measurement used globally to assess safety in any country.

In the case of Jamaica, the murder rate — which for too long has been considered among the highest in the world — has not only undermined the confidence of people in their communities and homes; crucially it has acted as a serious damper for potential business investment and has made life much more difficult for those who actively sell the nation's high-quality tourism product.

We make bold to say that Jamaica today would be a prosperous, fast-growing economy had the ratio of murders per hundred thousand remained in single digits as it was in the early 1960s.

Just as an aside, the nation should never forget that the gun culture which transformed this land from a relatively peaceful place to among the most crime prone on earth found fertile ground in the bitter political tribalism of the 1960s and 70s. There can be no escaping the reality that the politicians of the time — some still with us — have much for which they should answer.

Commissioner Ellington tells us that "bold" game-changing strategies will be used to return Jamaica to being a safer place. We are struck by his emphasis on intelligence gathering and capacity building in terms of investigation.

But, for ordinary folk, perhaps the most comforting was the charge by the commissioner that in 2013 and beyond the police should provide "a visible expansion of cross-divisional co-operation to curtail the movement of criminals and the conveyance of guns, ammunition and illegal drugs. We must move more aggressively and with better co-ordination to deny criminals freedom of movement and freedom of action, which they continue to exploit in the pursuit of criminal motives... We must assert ourselves from early in the year by dominating our major roadways, by establishing vehicle checkpoints at strategic positions and by responding in a timely manner to intelligence reports".

This newspaper can only agree. We would add that police personnel should creatively and proactively find ways to connect with people in their areas of operation; to help build neighbourhood watch programmes and citizens groups — all of which can only, in the medium to long term, make the job of the police that much easier.

We agree entirely with Mr Ellington that "there can be no let-up in the fight against crime in 2013".




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