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Bunting going for bigger drop in crimes this year

BY KARYL WALKER Crime/court editor walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 17, 2013    

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SECURITY Minister Peter Bunting, buoyed by a seven per cent drop in murders, shootings and other major crimes last year, says the Government is aiming for a further reduction in year.

Speaking at a press briefing at the ministry in Kingston yesterday, Bunting said a number of anti-crime measures will be implemented to make the projection a reality.

"Although the murder statistics are not as low as we would have liked, just to put it in perspective, it's the lowest we have had in nine years. We are going to reduce murders by double-digit percentages," Bunting said.

He said there was a four-year plan to reduce murders to 12 per 100,000 persons by the year 2017.

Among the measures to be implemented is the training of an additional 5,000 soldiers and police over a four-year period to boost the security forces' capacity to combat crime and "ensure that decent citizens rid themselves of the fear of crime", according to Bunting.

The desired number of police needed to effectively fight crime is 12,000, while the country would need 5,500 soldiers to complement the constabulary in their attack on crime, but according to Bunting the numbers in both the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force is about .62 per cent of the total population, which is less than desirable.

"Our goal at the ministry is to increase the strength of our security forces to their approved establishment," he said.

In addition to boosting the collective numbers of the security forces, he said a sustained training programme had already been implemented and was already bearing fruit.

He also pointed the State's intention to increase the number of police cordon-and-search operations which was intended to obstruct the free movement of criminals. The minister made it clear, however, that the Administration was not in agreement with extra-judicial killings.

More than a dozen people have been fatally shot by the police since January 1.

"No green light has been given to the police to go out and be judge, jury and executioner. Every use of legal force must be justified and if it is not justified, then INDECOM is going to probe and their investigations are methodical and thorough," he said.

In the meantime, Bunting said legislation -- The Evidence Special Measures (Fraudulent Transactions) Act -- with more teeth would be passed in a couple of months as the police continue their assault against the multimillion-dollar lottery scam, which has damaged Jamaica's reputation, especially in the United States where hundreds of people have been scammed.

"We recognise the limitations of our current laws. That bill, we expect to be tabled in Parliament during the month of February and actually passed by the end of the fiscal year [in March]," he said.

In addition, the security ministry has formed alliances with remittance companies, the US postal service, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and United States financial institutions, among other entities, to fight lotto scammers.

The Government, Bunting said, was also looking to pass anti-gang and DNA laws in order to further boost the crime-fighting effort of the security forces.

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