Don't allow political egotism to sink new anti-gang task force

Don't allow political egotism to sink new anti-gang task force

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

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No one can be blamed for responding, 'Here we go again,' following the announcement that yet another special force has been established to dismantle and disrupt Jamaica's roughly 400 murderous criminal gangs.

So, our suggestion to Major General Antony Anderson, the police commissioner, is that he should not be discouraged if no one is doing cartwheels or popping the Champagne bottles, based on his disclosure in the latest edition of the Force Orders.

Yet, we believe there is room for cautious optimism that this special team might be different from past ones, given the combination of the Specialised Operations Unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Combat Support Battalion of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), as reported in yesterday's Jamaica Observer.

Interestingly, we wonder if the nation is not seeing glimpses of the merging of the JCF and the JDF into one fighting force — a big idea that has been mooted from time to time.

Major General Anderson said the new Special Purpose Task Force is designed to combat criminal gangs, organisations, and groups in Jamaica, utilising a high-quality, operational response formation based on superior intelligence-gathering investigation and tactical skills “to solve all high-risk public safety and public order issues within communities”.

“The mission of Specialised Operations is to deploy level 2-4 tactical policing assets to support the crime reduction effort of the JCF by targeting individuals and gangs that commit murders, shootings, robberies, and other violent crimes,” added Anderson.

The intent, he said, is to dismantle and disrupt the most violent gangs in Jamaica by careful study and investigation of their organisation, facilitators, ethos, and financing, and to identify leadership and other key actors for law enforcement applications.

We draw hope as well from the fact that the security forces will have upgraded anti-gang legislation which benefits from the experience of the previous law that did not make adequate provisions for handling gang activities, and therefore resulted in only two convictions in six years.

It sounds sensible, if challenging, that the task force will operate on a “round-the-clock basis and will leverage a spectrum of capabilities, creating a multiplier effect in targeted spaces [and] thus restricting the freedom of movement and action of criminals”.

Having said all that, we would advise the commissioner that, though nice sounding, the description of the new gang-busting force will not sway anyone without real results. We've heard it all before.

The security forces must bear in mind, too, that gang activities are generally well supported and defended by communities which view them as benefactors. That will pose a serious obstacle for its intelligence-gathering operation.

In that regard, it would be useful if the task force benefits from the combined efforts of the private sector-led national stakeholders and the two political parties in their quest to unite Jamaicans against the criminals.

Any government attempt to go it alone will end up as all others have done – in abject failure. Political egotism must not be allowed to thwart the potential for success of this new force.


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