The action ingredients to the crime fight

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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Dear Editor,

It is now just a matter of days before the prime minister sets out his Government's plan for the present crisis of murder. The Cabinet has discussed the matter in retreat. The prime minister has met with the National Security Council. Before putting out the plan he may want also to be guided by the views of the summit that the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica is seeking to convene within the next fortnight.

In the meantime, it is clear that, along with a medium- to long-term plan, immediate action must be taken to stop the wanton bloodletting. The right of people to life and security is paramount. To me and, I believe, to many others, it is therefore apparent that this action must include the imposition of an expanded zones of special operations (ZOSO) over relatively large areas, the most threatening ones being St James, Kingston/St Andrew and Clarendon. The law reform Bill passed last year to establish the ZOSO has most or all of the necessary ingredients for such a step.

Number and extent of the areas to be selected would depend both on the guidance of knowledgeable people on the ground and on the available number and resources of security personnel, especially the military. The method of their deployment is also critical: cordoning and monitoring of external area boundaries appear no longer relevant for dealing with changed community (and criminal) behaviour. Security force numbers and frequent spot checks might be (and might have to be, because of area extent) much more effective.

Immediate action should also include, I would suggest, two other ingredients. One is leadership. Here I would doubt that, given the urgency of action needed and the announced imminence of a constabulary Act revised to reform the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Andrew Holness will consider it wise to tamper with present position holders in the ministry and the force. He might want, however, to make more use than hitherto of the military and, in the JCF, an 'adjustment' allowing a pro-temp executive role for a competent, lower-evel officer.

The other action ingredient is a launch of a medium- to long-term social intervention along the lines of the 'army' of social workers that I have proposed ( Jamaica Observer, November 29, 2017, The Gleaner, December 20, 2017); and this not only in the enlarged ZOSOs but across the island in some 100 communities. This intervention would require, as also proposed, a national mobilisation — led by the prime minister — of public, civil society and private sector resources — financial and employment especially.

Prime Minister Holness may not see this as do-able, or he may simply be reluctant to take on such a risky challenge. Without this last ingredient, however, with its twofold components, the lesson of May 2010 will again have been missed, and in a few years we will be back again in another mess just like today's.

Horace Levy

halpeace.levy78@gmail.com

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