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No decline in police activities, says Hinds

BY CONRAD HAMILTON Senior staff reporter hamiltonc@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 21, 2012    

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AMIDST swirling debate over the Simpson Miller Administration's inability to control the country's crime problem, a top ranking member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is dismissing claims that there has been a noticeable decline in policing activities over the past year.

In fact, Deputy Commissioner of Police Glenmore Hinds is insisting that there is no need to reinstitute the major islandwide police/military operations that were used just over two years ago as part of efforts to clamp down on criminals loyal to former West Kingston crime lord, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

Those efforts resulted in a significant decline in major crimes and led some observers to conclude that the country's security forces were finally winning the war against marauding criminals.

But in recent weeks, several civil society activists, as well as the Opposition, have been complaining that the security forces have not been as visible as they ought to be and have questioned the extent to which the Government's tight fiscal position has caused it to cut back on its resource allocation to the country's crime fighters.

For Opposition spokesman on national security Delroy Chuck, the Government should not allow resource constraints to cause the security forces to cut back on their efforts.

"They were provided with the necessary resources to ensure that they carried out numerous cordons and curfews, and so in many crime-ridden communities the criminals were always under retreat, which undoubtedly caused crime to trend down," said Chuck.

"We have noticed that since this year, sufficient cordons and curfews are not being conducted and that may, in fact, be one of the reasons why the crime may be trending up rather than down," he argued.

His comments were similar to those made by JLP leader Andrew Holness who declared two weeks ago that the Government had lost the momentum in fighting crime, pointing out that two years ago, under the JLP Administration, criminals were on the run and crime was down.

He said that at that time the murder rate was 2.5 per day and gang leaders went into hiding. "But this is not the case now. Gangs are re-assembling; the criminal networks are making their connections once again and, before you know it, they will be all over the island again," Holness told a gathering of party supporters.

But Deputy Commissioner Hinds insisted there is no need for the police to effect any major change to their crime-fighting strategy, as the existing data do not point to the need for such action.

According to him, while there have been a number of headline-grabbing crimes over the past few weeks, the numbers — particularly as they relate to murders — have been hovering around the corresponding figures for last year, when a total of 1,124 were killed.

However, Hinds acknowledged the increased level of fear associated with the recent incidents and said the police are taking steps to reassure Jamaicans across the country that they are on top of the situation.

"A nation that is gripped by fear will not produce to its maximum, so it is about how we manage the fear that people quite understandably might have. Do we see a general increase in crime, the answer is no. There have been instances where there have been some very heinous crimes, which have led to the heightening of the levels of fear in the nation, but we are doing a significant amount of work to cauterise the crime challenge. We have been largely successful in the main, and that is what we want to continue to do," said Hinds.

He acknowledged that, like other departments of government, the police have not escaped the effects of the fiscal constraints, but denied claims that the work of the security forces is being severely hampered by the situation.

His comment came despite reports that some of the country's crime fighters have been struggling with defective vehicles, or without the minimum number of vehicles due to the Government's inability to purchase spare parts.

In defending his argument, Hinds referred to JCF data, which suggest that more police operations have been conducted so far this year, than for the corresponding period in 2011.

According to him, the number of mobile patrols between January 1 and October 4 this year was 3,640 more than the number for the corresponding period in 2011.

For the period there were close to 60,000 more roadblocks across the country and 8,000 more raids. Regarding curfews, the number moved from 1,921 to just over 5,000.

Meanwhile, the senior cop is indicating that the security forces will be stepping up their efforts between now and year-end to reduce major crimes such as murders and robberies.

"What we aim to do is to pull out all the numbers that we have and bring them to bear on the problems to compress the number of crimes," he said.

"We want, in particular, to reduce robberies because we recognise that this tends to happen at this time of the year. We have been meeting to refine strategies to cut down the surge in murders that normally take place at this time of the year. He who controls the streets wins the battle, and that is part of the strategy moving forward," the senior cop explained.

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