Editorial

Encouraging news from Spanish Town, but...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013    

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This newspaper is delighted at word from the police that a relentless push against criminal gangs in Spanish Town and wider St Catherine North is reaping dividends.

We are told that murders and shootings are significantly down and the gangs, which have for too long kept the people of Spanish Town and its environs cowering in fear, are in decline.

As Jamaica seeks to achieve economic recovery and growth under a new and painful programme supervised by the International Monetary Fund, it's crucial that an area as populous and commercially important as Spanish Town also grows.

And as we have all come to learn, to our great cost over several decades, where criminals dominate there is no possibility of sustainable and healthy social and economic development.

It's useful to make the point that Spanish Town and its environs are not your usual commonplace commercial centres. Priceless monuments and heritage sites dating back to Spanish occupation 500 years ago, and even before that, to the obscure Taino people, give Spanish Town enormous potential for heritage tourism.

Apparently the no-nonsense-sounding chief of police in the region, Superintendent Anthony Castelle, has taken a proactive approach in his drive to combat crime.

"We are using all the resources at our disposal and we will not wait until a crime is committed before we act," Mr Castelle is reported in our Sunday edition as saying.

Aware of the simple, obvious truth that criminals flee from the presence of the security forces, the police have taken over the positions previously held by criminals, setting up posts and regular patrols.

We have often said in this space, and many others have made the same point, that this is a tactic that needs to be implemented at all trouble spots. And as part of that strategy, we say yet again, the undermanned Jamaica Constabulary Force must be actively and consistently supported by the Jamaica Defence Force.

Crucially, too, strategies must be in place to ensure that when the criminals flee they don't set up shop and prosper elsewhere. We are all aware that many previously quiet, innocent, deep rural communities are now being stained by the activities of migrating criminals.

The pursuit of these footloose parasites must be as relentless as it has been in St Catherine.

But to return to our essential point, we note that part of the strategy by Mr Castelle and his team involves well-established partnership arrangements with host communities such as Gravel Heights and Tredegar Park.

The Sunday Observer tells us that "In addition to setting up a police post, the police have also cut a road to give them easier access to (Gravel Heights) and are moving to set up a homework centre for the children of Gravel Heights. Community meetings are also a regular feature of the police initiative to restore normality to the community, which still bears the scars of gang violence".

Well-thinking members of the community also want to give back to the police. But here is the rub. Citizens in Gravel Heights say they want to volunteer their labour to build a bathroom for the police post. They say police personnel have had to be using the bathrooms of citizens as well as, God forbid, the bushes.

How, we wonder, could the authorities have established a police post without first ensuring that there is a basic sanitary facility?

Here is another example of utter incompetence and thoughtlessness far too common in Jamaica.

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