5-year crime plan

5-year crime plan

Bunting aims for less than one murder per day by 2017

BY INGRID BROWN Senior staff reporter browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

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A National Security Policy to tackle the country's ballooning crime rate with an intent to reduce murders from the current three per day to less than one over the next five years is to be made public next month, National Security Minister Peter Bunting announced yesterday.

The announcement comes in the wake of police statistics which show that 165 persons have been murdered in the first seven weeks of this year, 30 more than the corresponding period last year.

But according to Bunting, the plan is to reduce crime to first world levels by 2017.

For this to be achieved, Bunting said, the murder rate will have to fall from the 41 per 100,000 ratio in 2011 to 12 per 100,000.

This, he added further, would result in the maximum number of murders being 321, which would be less than one per day.

"We are now slightly over three murders per day, which means we need to reduce murders by 134 per year over the next five years," Bunting told journalists at a special Jamaica House Press Briefing in Kingston.

Bunting said the People's National Party Government had developed a national security policy just prior to demitting office in 2007, but this was never implemented when the Jamaica Labour Party Administration took over.

However, he said the current crime situation in the country has rendered the 2007 document useless, hence the need for a new policy.

While a major component of the policy will be to go after the proceeds of crime, Bunting said social interventions will be made in communities dominated by criminals.

The gang strategy, he said, has been to confront the gangs and try to take charge of the community when law enforcement drives out the gangs.

"But the hold was for a relatively short period of time and we want to change that to more than just confronting the gangs but dismantling them and the difference is not only will you clear and hold, but you have to build the communities so there is not a receptive environment for those gangs to return," Bunting said.

Speaking to a broad anti-gang strategy, the minister said while the plan is to identify the hardcore gang members and confront them, this has to be balanced with another softer intervention to reach potential recruits and those on the periphery.

A strategy to tackle this will be the deployment of local police officers to communities and the roll-out of an anti-gang media campaign.

Another initiative will be a Community Safety Corp Programme which will target at-risk youth for enlistment into a cadet-type programme aimed at re-socialising them.

The Citizens Security and Justice Programme will also be expanded from 39 communities to 55 with majority of the new ones being rolled out in the St Catherine North division.

However, the policy cannot come soon enough for law enforcement officials as the police intensify their operations in a number of troubled communities.

Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington told the press briefing that an assessment of gang conflict across the country shows that there are 42 active gang conflicts currently taking place in nine police divisions.

Each of these gang conflicts, he said, has the potential to generate violence and murders in the community.

"The police and military resources are focused on trying to contain many of these conflicts to prevent further escalation of violence," the commissioner said, adding that there is a high concentration of activities now going on in the St Catherine North division, mainly around Spanish Town and, to a lesser extent, in St James around the challenged communities outside Montego Bay.

In addition to containing the violence to prevent further escalation and to assure some level of security for the citizens, Ellington said the police are denying the criminal gang members freedom of movement and action within the communities by saturation, targeted raids and vehicle checkpoints.

"We are tracking them wherever they go so we can effect arrest of those who have been displaced from the zones of high operation," he said.

Some of these operations, he said, have led to significant arrests with 60 persons being detained on Monday, some of whom were fingered in recent murders in St Catherine.

"We also made significant arrests of gang members in Kingston and elsewhere who fled the Spanish Town Area in the immediate aftermath of the upsurge in criminal activities," he informed.

Another strategy being deployed in the troubled Spanish Town and Montego Bay communities is the establishment of permanent police posts.

He announced that the police have established permanent presence in Gravel Heights and urged the residents who fled their homes to return.

"We are appealing to residents who may have fled because of the violence to return and occupy their homes because we are going to be there for as long as it takes to build back community resilience," he said.

Similar presence has also been established in Shelter Rock and Quarry in St Catherine, and Tucker, Granville and Rose Heights in St James.

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