Crime stalemate

Letters to the Editor

Crime stalemate

Thursday, June 04, 2020

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Dear Editor,

It's not in the front of people's minds right now, nor Government's. It has been pushed out by COVID-19 concerns, of course. It is blanked out by Prime Minister Andrew Holness's deep personal attention to all the details of the great “risk” (his word) to the nation in the face of the “exponential increase” (Christopher Tufton's words) expected from opening borders to tourists on June 15. His performance in Parliament on June 2 well illustrates the point.

The “pushed out” referred to is the country's murders. They deserve attention. Forty have been reported last week, almost six a day, a level only seen before in 2009- 2010 and 2017. Unlike previous instances, last week's may have been no more than a spike. Still, it is a threat that is serious. It is serious because it points to the stalemate that has clearly developed.

The murders are simply blamed on “murderers” sticking to what they know best. Given this “analysis” a response that chiefly relies on an increased deployment of police and soldiers can hardly surprise. Surprising neither, however, should be the outcome — the impotence of the State to resolve the problem.

Observers over and over gave that forecast. But stalemate is not a tolerable situation.

Last week's 10th anniversary of the security forces' operation in Tivoli Gardens brought to my mind another analysis and response. It is contained in one of the few bright sequels to that massacre — the Report of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry. However, apart from apology to Tivolites, and some financial and human recompense, its recommendations have been ignored by successive administrations and the media. This in spite of the enormous cost and the high quality of the commission, the commissioners and the report.

I am urging the Holness Administration — just as in this COVID-19 period in which it has adopted many suggestions from the ground — to undertake a careful study of the commission's analysis and recommendations (chapter 15). There are many, but they amount to two:

1) “radical” reform of the security forces, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in particular; and

2) the restoration of well-being in deprived communities.

These are not new; it is true. Commissions from the early 1990s have made the identical points. They deserve all the more to be given full consideration and adoption.

As for the opening up of Jamaica's borders to tourists, this is clearly a necessity for the economy. To my mind, the extent of the opening on June 15 is too large, however. Some limit on extent, or a more gradual timing, is required to lower the risk and the resulting increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases and burden on the health system. It may be late, given the complexity of the situation with travel agencies and airlines, etc, to modify the course that has been set, but this is what even some would have preferred.

Horace Levy

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