United stand needed to combat crime

Monday, August 28, 2017

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Even as Jamaicans anxiously await the implementation of the anti-crime zones of special operations, they shouldn't fool themselves into thinking it will be a panacea.

The plan to not just rid a targeted community of criminals, but to also keep it safe and secure while making appropriate social intervention makes good sense. Well-thinking Jamaicans will be hoping that, over time, that strategy will help to transform communities currently in the grip of criminals.

However, there will have to be a cap on the number of special zones declared at any given time. That's dictated by the limited resources which will be available to the security forces and social intervention agencies, in terms of personnel, vehicles, logistics, materials, etc.

The country's debt-burdened economy means Government simply does not have the capacity to pour in resources as would be ideal.

Jamaicans need only consider the many deadly trouble spots across the island to understand the magnitude of the task.

Then there are those communities which may have been under the radar, in terms of criminal activity, but which are increasingly becoming hot spots. Such places are to be found all over rural Jamaica, especially where squatting has taken hold.

Typically, criminals on the run from security forces in urban centres seek shelter in such communities and are soon actively forming gangs and creating mayhem.

The story in yesterday's Sunday Observer of criminal gangs at work in Steer Town, St Ann­ ­— once a place of peace and quiet — illustrates the point.

Steer Town is just a few minutes away from the tourist mecca Ocho Rios but, as is the case in socially depressed communities in and around Montego Bay, gunmen have taken root. We hear that squatting is also a major problem.

We are told that Member of Parliament for St Ann North Eastern Ms Shahine Robinson has identified poverty as a main reason for the crime in Steer Town. We won't dispute that. Available evidence suggests that poverty can be a breeding ground for criminality.

However, there are poor communities in Jamaica where criminals are not tolerated. Very often such communities have well-organised and well-led organisations which focus not just on co-operating with the police to combat crime but on socio-economic upliftment.

We have said over and over in this space that the best way to proactively deal with crime is to organise communities to help themselves.

Jamaicans shouldn't be waiting until criminals are at their doorstep firing guns in broad daylight before contemplating what to do. Prevention is always better than cure.

The thing to do is to so organise communities that those with criminal intent will know even before they cross the line that there is no place for them there. Such a campaign should be national in scope, led by the prime minister and his Government, supported by leaders in all sectors and at every level, urging Jamaicans to band together against criminals.

The nation can't continue to simply react to crime. Jamaicans must find a way to stand as one and, through proper planning and organisation, proactively face down those intent on evil.




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