Nice-sounding police acronyms don't reduce crime
We, like all well-thinking Jamaicans, welcome any effort to crush criminals and their networks in this country, for we have had the painful task of reporting their devilish deeds over many years.
We have seen first-hand the destruction of families at the hands of these scum, whose actions have also robbed this country of economic growth.
Therefore, any effort to free Jamaica of their crippling stranglehold has our full and unwavering support.
However, we get the impression that the political directorate, in its efforts to deal with this scourge, is obsessed with the creation of nice-sounding acronyms rather than a steady focus on what needs to be done.
We say this because the launch this week of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA) by National Security Minister Peter Bunting revived memories of the introduction of another taskforce, with basically the same objective, almost eight years ago.
On October 19, 2004, then National Security Minister Dr Peter Phillips launched Operation Kingfish, telling us that it was "a new, intelligence-driven taskforce to co-ordinate and lead the fight against organised crime".
Kingfish, he said, would target "the big fish that control the criminal gangs", but "fryers will not be allowed to swim free in crime-infested waters and perhaps grow into big fish".
"Simply put, we are going to arrest and prosecute the leaders of organised crime and anyone involved in drug-related crime, shooting or extortion," Dr Phillips added.
On Monday, June 4, 2012, current National Security Minister Peter Bunting, while launching MOCA, said it will go after crime kingpins and their facilitators, including lawyers, bankers and other public officials.
"This morning really signals a change in policy emphasis. We are shifting the focus from street-level criminals to target the top bosses -- the kingpins -- and perhaps more importantly, will be our focus on the people who handle the money... the facilitators," Mr Bunting said, adding that MOCA will be very selective in the cases it targets.
Outside of the added focus on the facilitators of crime, we don't see much difference in the mandate handed to Kingfish and MOCA.
Since its launch, Operation Kingfish has achieved success. In fact, we recall that on its third anniversary the taskforce boasted that it had a 100 per cent conviction record.
One of the primary contributors to that is the fact that Kingfish has the support of full-time professional legal assistance throughout the investigation process.
"When it comes to case preparation, our elite investigators work very closely with our legal team to ensure that the files are properly prepared and no stone is left unturned in covering every area," Assistant Commissioner of Police Mr Glenmore Hinds, who headed Kingfish, was reported as saying at the time.
We acknowledge that despite that success, Jamaica still has a crime problem. Indeed, questions have, in the past, been asked about the effectiveness of Kingfish and other anti-crime squads formed over the years.
However, we hold that for our police force to effectively combat crime it needs a continuous injection of resources, as we have seen that criminal networks have grown increasingly sophisticated.
Instead of creating new squads or taskforces, we believe the Government would do better to consolidate the resources available to the police.