We won't manage crime if we keep shouting at each other


We won't manage crime if we keep shouting at each other


Sunday, February 09, 2020

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The American general election of 2008 had two incredible candidates: John McCain and Barack Obama. In 2016 it had Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I often think of this as a reminder not to take great candidates for granted.

For our upcoming general election we have Dr Peter Phillips and Andrew Holness. Both these candidates are incredible leaders and we stand to benefit, irrespective of the outcome. However, only one can win. The other will become useless and unable to contribute.

This system is senseless. Why must it come down to victor and vanquished? There must be some way it can be different. There must be a way to make it such that the ability to contribute is not restricted to the winning team.

The lack of cooperation is manifesting itself more than ever in the lack of a consensus regarding the national crime strategy. Our safety should not be a game of political football, it should, in fact, be the one thing free of politics.

So, recently the debate has come down to Andrew Holness saying that the super police squads in our past failed and Dr Phillips saying that the parochial states of emergency (SOEs) have failed. Well, I would like to think that neither of these great men means what he is saying, or at least the way it is being presented to the public.

I say this for a variety of reasons, one of which is, they are both right and wrong. Firstly, they are right that neither the super squads nor the SOEs have accomplished an annual reduction in murders committed — at least not in relatively recent times. However, there is a variable that is being ignored — that being the rate of increase. For example, between 1975 and 1980 murders increased from 266 to 899, or by a percentage of 238.

After the introduction of Operation Squad, murders decreased from 490 in 1981 to 449 in 1986 — a percentage decrease of nine. After the murder surge between 1993 and 1996 took place, with murders increasing by 50 per cent, the Special Anti-Crime Task Force assisted to reduce the rate of murders from 925 to 849 between 1996 and 1999.

I could use many other examples of the stalling of the rate of murders brought on by the intervention of special squads, despite the fact that the squads were not able to take us to a homicide rate of a civilised State. But, can you imagine if this brave, energised group of crime-fighters was not there to combat these surges? The surges would have become the normal rate of increase.

So, picture a rate of increase of 50 per cent every three to five years, like what occurred from 1993 to 1996, or 1975 to 1980.

Now, I recognise that many factors may have influenced the rate of increase or decrease in homicides, and that it may not have been attributable only to super squads. But it would be disingenuous or naive to assume that they did not play a major part in stabilising the country when they were needed.

Dr Phillips is sceptical about the use of parochial SOEs to stem the murder rate. To be fair to him, they have not brought about a reduction in the annual homicide rate. But again, look at how the use of SOEs has been effective in divisions like southern St Catherine, where the 100 days before the introduction of the SOE reflected twice the number of murders vs the 100 days after its introduction in 2019. This is true also of Montego Bay and northern St Catherine. The rate of increase dropped significantly in the 100 days after vs the 100 days before.

Measuring the SOEs' effectiveness cannot be calculated by using an entire year or the entire country, because the SOEs are not in place for an entire year or in use across the country. If you want a national effect, then declare a state of emergency for the whole island and keep it in place for a calendar year.

But do these leaders really want to agree on a strategy or do they just want to criticise each other? I'm sure they both want to see a reduction but do they want to agree that conflict breeds this type of myopic thinking?

How can anyone seriously say that Operation Kingfish failed? This cannot be a fair opinion. But as I said, it is not about finding solutions, it is about finding fault!

This mindset is not limited to politicians. I recently wrote an article that compared our performance in achieving charges and convictions in Kingston's Gun Court with that of the city of Chicago. A fellow writer, Richard Blackford, who I believe specialises in art and social commentary, blasted me and introduced figures reflecting our country's crime statistics versus Chicago's. I am not sure why, as I was comparing city against city. Had I said the police force was useless and criticised the country using his method of unnamed former officers making damaging allegations, I would be OK. But because I showed an extract that highlighted a positive I am self-serving.

Mr Blackford was also critical of the system of clearing up murders when the men wanted for the murders die or are killed. Well, what does he want to be done if the suspect is deceased? Try a ghost? Violent men lead violent lives and usually get themselves killed. This is just the reality.

I have done studies showing up to 75 per cent occurrences of victim/offender overlap in some parishes. So when “Duppy Film” was killed in a shoot-out with the police, after being wanted for killing two police officers, what did he expect the investigators to do, list the murders as unsolved?

Now, back to our leaders. If all we are going to do is shout at each another and criticise every solution that is suggested or tried by our opponents, we are never going to get anywhere with this 45-year-old problem. We need to put our minds together for a genuine solution that helps our country, not just our party.

You are both great men. Now, show us you are also good men.

Put Jamaica first.

Feedback: jasonamckay@gmail.com

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