If we are to effectively deal with crime...

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

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From this newspaper's perspective, the campaign to reduce crime and violence in this country must be comprehensive, integrated and long term.

Jamaicans shouldn't expect overnight solutions, though, as we have seen, strategies such as extraordinary powers handed to the security forces through states of emergency do have beneficial effects.

The trouble though is that those extraordinary measures can't be permanent. And as we have seen from the public defender's report, such measures can lead to abuse of State power and related ills.

Solutions that get to the root of the problem of crime and violence must be found. We would suggest, as we have done in the past, that together with efforts by the security forces, a way must be found to enlist the support of communities.

Also, a way must be found to eliminate conditions that cause far too many young people to become hopeless, frustrated, angry and easy recruits for anti-social behaviour.

We note efforts as explained by Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson at the Jamaica Observer's Monday Exchange. The first responsibility, he said, was to develop strategies that would see the murder rate trending down.

Secondly, there has to be more attention to public safety and traffic enforcement – which we are aware remains very much a work in progress.

Thirdly and fourthly, he said the security forces must deal with “guns and gangs in a manner that's sustainable” and the reduction of what this newspaper recognises to be widespread corruption in the police force allied to the lifting of professional standards.

Obviously, the fundamental social issues aren't in the hands of the police high command.

Take corruption, for example. Jamaicans don't need anyone to tell them that 'ginnalship' and 'annancyism' are rampant and the constabulary, like every other department of government, is vulnerable to that negative culture.

But also, that culture thrives even more as a result of low salaries and poor working conditions.

Sadly, that situation won't change overnight since the Government is caught in an absolutely necessary debt reduction programme which means expenditures, including wage increases and such, must be kept in line with targets agreed with multilateral lenders.

The longer-term plan must be to ease the burden on elite public sector workers, such as police officers, with appropriate remuneration, as more spending power becomes available to Government in years to come. Meanwhile, there needs to be innovative ways to help rank and file in the security forces avoid the demeaning 'lef or write' as well as become more professional and motivated.

Also, communities must feel themselves a part of the anti-crime fight. That requires a drive led by the prime minister and Government with the support of so-called civil society, politicians of all stripes, the church, and others to organise communities and build leadership in those communities.

If we are serious about stopping criminals we must organise at the community level.

Furthermore, as we have said over and over, all Jamaican children must be taken care of to ensure they do not become the next generation of criminals. There are far too many children in urban and rural areas with not enough to eat; who go to school only now and again or not at all; who are poorly socialised; badly brought up.

Those social problems must be addressed over time if the society is to effectively deal with crime.

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