Editorial

Jamaica needs a larger police force

Sunday, July 23, 2017

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The first and most important function of a g overnment is to maintain law and order, which is absolutely critical to the achievement of a safe environment for people to work, live, raise families and do business.

That is the laudable goal of Vision 2030, the much-touted National Development Plan, but which seems to be drifting farther and farther away from realisation.

The data on crime, corruption, violence, and murder indicate that the security situation has not improved over the years, and many would argue that it has got worse. Some people have already gone as far as to suggest that Jamaica is a failed state on the basis of the breakdown in law and order.

In our view, however, using this criteria, that it is a debatable question as to whether Jamaica is a failed state. We don't believe we are there yet, given that crime is still largely relegated to some inner-city enclaves.

Yet even at that, no one disputes the fact that crime and violence has adversely affected the quality of life and retarded economic growth, while posing a clear and present danger to tourism, upon which so much is relying.

Neither does anyone disagree that the long- term solution to crime and violence is economic development in which the majority of our people get better off through more jobs, better education, and improved health care in which the Government takes the lead.

Such development is, at best, quite difficult to achieve, and is in the distant future. But it is certainly possible in the short run to do more to control crime.

We believe that there is general agreement that Jamaica is currently under-policed. There are not enough police officers, not enough service vehicles, not enough equipment, not enough police stations, and not enough ancillary support.

We have to spend more on policing the country by increasing the number of police officers, motor vehicles and equipment; improving working conditions; and to the extent possible increasing remuneration.

This would make it possible to put more police on the streets to prevent crime and improve the capacity of the police to respond more speedily to crime situations, thereby increasing the rate of apprehension. Many criminals are emboldened by the feeling that they are unlikely to get caught. We know this.

This solution is going to cost a lot of money. The Government has just pumped in an additional $2.75 billion to support the zones of special operations to be spent on additional vehicles, closed-circuit systems, and body cameras along with other crime-fighting equipment. This is a decent start and it shows that there is a will on the part of the administration.

Yet, it is going to require further reallocation of resources from less urgent needs to gets us where we need to be. Law and order is the priority, and once it is adequately funded it will generate the funds to replenish what it costs.

Massive amounts are spent on security by every household, every business, and the Government. A more secure environment will spark an economic resurgence through new investment, new production, and new employment.

More visitors will want to make it Jamaica, and more Jamaicans overseas will want to return home to live and invest. Let's make the investment in law and order.

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