Get the Guns campaign nets 351 weapons, pays out $700,000

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

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THREE hundred and fifty-one guns have been seized under the Get the Guns campaign, which was launched in September of last year and more than $700,000 paid out to persons who have given information that has led to the recovery of these firearms, Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams said Tuesday.


He was speaking with Jamaica Observer reporters and editors at the newspaper’s head office on Beechwood Avenue in Kingston.


Dr Williams explained that it was important to create a reward programme specifically for this initiative despite having a similar reward scheme in the long-standing Crime Stop initiative.


"We were very concerned about the use of guns in murders. We felt we had to do something special, not a generic thing that has been happening for years. When we focused on the guns using this initiative, we started to see some results that we would not have seen if we were still going out there with Crime Stop. They (Crime Stop) were involved for a while but after a while Crime Stop felt we would get more bang for our buck if we just had an all-out campaign [for guns]," he said.


Head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) Criminal Investigation Branch, Assistant Commissioner of Police Elan Powell, who was among senior officers of Dr Williams’ team, said: "Guns are causing mayhem as [they] are used in more than 80 per cent of murders in general, but in places such as Westmoreland, Clarendon and St James that is over 90 per cent." Powell said the majority of the firearms seized under the campaign were found in the parish of St James.


Under the Get the Guns campaign, the police intercept illegal firearms entering the island as well as recover guns from criminals. It offers monetary rewards to the public for information which leads to the seizure of these weapons, which the police said is part of their overall strategy to reduce the number of gun-related crimes.


In the meantime, the police commissioner said despite the launch of the Unite for Change campaign in 2013, which is supposed to encourage a reshaping of cultural norms linked to crime, there really has been no noticeable paradigm shift in the mentality associated with violence.


"We have been a violent society for a long time now. We will have fluctuations in murders and incidents of violence, but really there has been no great change that we have seen. The great change that we want is not to have law enforcement go out and arrest everyone. We would want the people’s psyche to be impacted so that persons can resolve their conflicts without resorting to violence," he argued.


Deputy Commissioner of Police Novelette Grant said that due to the lack of consistency in the intervention strategies for violence-prone communities it takes a longer time for positive outcomes to manifest from initiatives that target cultural change.


"It’s difficult to measure things like prevention instantaneously. You’re talking about changes in people’s values and attitudes. If you can’t sustain intervention while you do traditional law enforcement then you’re not going to necessarily see what you want to see. Communities that were very criminogenic 10 years ago are less violent now because some amount of effort has been made to keep some of the interventions work going. The violence is intergenerational, and it’s learnt, and people have to unlearn it, and (be) resocialised," DCP Grant stated.


National security minister Robert Montague has undertaken to continue the Unite for Change initiative, which was launched by his predecessor Peter Bunting in 2013.


 


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