Is Dr Horace Chang our best man in the fight against crime?

Is Dr Horace Chang our best man in the fight against crime?

Sunday, January 24, 2021

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If the prime minister is contemplating a Cabinet shuffle —which is appropriate at the start of a new year — he should have a look at the crime portfolio and decide whether or not Dr Horace Chang represents the Government's best foot forward.

In March, Dr Chang will begin a fourth year as national security minister. His promotion last September to deputy prime minister as well, surely, could not be based on the serenity of our crime situation.

On the surface of it, Dr Chang appears to be a good man for the Government and even better for the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, after organising the party, as general secretary, to a 49 to 14 seat hammering of the Opposition People's National Party.

A medical doctor by profession, he began his political career in 1976 and has been the Member of Parliament for St James North Western since 2002. From 1980 to 1986, he was junior minister of health; minister of water & housing from 2007 to 2010 and minister of housing, environment, water and local government from 2010 to 2011.

He served as minister without portfolio with responsibility for water, works and housing in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation from February 2016 to March 2018 and since then as minister of national security.

Here's where Dr Chang has lost us. He had pledged to be resolute in providing a systematic approach to reducing crime and violence in Jamaica through “strategic thinking geared at providing for the transformation of the national security apparatus”.

This, he vowed, would be done through “improved mobility, leveraged technology, improved infrastructure, targeted social intervention to build community resilience/citizen safety, and the ongoing restructuring of the security forces, to provide increased intelligence gathering and training opportunities which will result in the reduction of actual and perceived corruption”.

We are still waiting to see the promised “considerable gains” in improved technological capability of law enforcement, such as e-policing, in the police information system, the acquisition of CCTV cameras and the build out of the national CCTV surveillance programme.

Moreover, he has claimed to have achieved success in the phased implementation of “a big data system which represented the start of the establishment of a security fusion centre with full capability to detect and respond to cyber-attacks; as well as the acquisition of several pieces of intelligence equipment and software which will enhance overall policing efforts”.

It all sounds good. However, the criminals seem decidedly unimpressed. Since the start of the year 2021, the country's murder toll has climbed to 13 per cent above the same period last year, or 81 murders, which is 72 more than the similar period in 2020.

Clearly, reducing crime is not the job of one man or even one government, hence we are not blaming Dr Chang for the dreadful state of crime, especially murders in Jamaica. Every citizen must be enjoined in the fight.

For that reason, we again call on the Government to join the private sector, civic society and the Opposition to unite the country in a collaborative approach to crime-fighting, based on the outcomes of the anti-crime summit.

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