Letters to the Editor

Plain shame or policing on the cheap?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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Dear Editor,

Policing on the cheap can work, but it has to be well-thought through and directed. We're policing on the cheap because, we are led to believe, there is no money to do otherwise. We would do well to take the advice of the physicist Ernest Rutherford who said: “We've got no money, so we must think.”

We are failing dismally to pick low-hanging fruit by not bringing to heel the drivers of robots/taxis/minibuses who act as if no law exists. This single failure has done much to hold law enforcement up to ridicule. Right across Jamaica thousands of these drivers and their 'hangers-ons' know that whatever the law might say, little enforcement takes place. They don't even have to be subtle as they shred the Road Traffic Act.

I witnessed same (again!) days ago while driving along Hope Road from Half-Way-Tree. At the Waterloo Road intersection, as I waited for the light to change, two taxis came up the filter lane and just drove straight through the red light and went their way. At next intersection with East King's House Road two taxis coming down from Liguanea used the filter lane to cut in front of waiting motorists, then stopped in the yellow cross-hatch area.

Such things happen every day all across the country. Looking for an index of failure of law enforcement? Just stand by any major road and you'll see it, as robots/taxis/minibuses make three lanes out of two, run red lights, block intersections, all without consequence.

Our practice of writing laws and leaving them to enforce themselves has caught up with us. Moral suasion is not law enforcement — neither is hand-wringing and lamentation. We have, as a nation, to write just laws and enforce them. How difficult is it to enforce road traffic laws on main urban corridors when we have a Transport Authority, traffic police, and traffic courts?

This failure goes hand in hand with the ticketing system. What a travesty! There are drivers on our roads with dozens, if not hundreds of outstanding tickets. They're not in hiding. They're driving around with impunity because the ramshackle system can neither find them nor bring them to book. Instead, we have periodic amnesties, hoping they'll come forward. Then we crow about how much money the amnesty brought in. Shame!

We are enabling crime by failing to catch and prosecute offenders. Traffic offences are the easiest since they must use the roads, and we know where those are. It is bad for morale when citizens can be seen openly flouting the laws without consequence. It also makes the police look silly. The solution is not more laws; it is enforcement. Nonsensical babbling about how lawless Jamaicans are does not help. Jamaicans are not lawless when they go elsewhere.

Some of our laws might not be just, and some are just plain silly. The case of Tesha Miller was one for the 'silly' files, but at least it got us searching for others like it that might be lurking in our code. Policing on the cheap, especially when you have no real alternative, cannot be done just willy-nilly. Let Rutherford's words ring in our ears: We must think!

Michael Nicholson


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