Chang says social intervention has not tamed crime in St James

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer writer

Saturday, September 28, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James – Security Minister Dr Horace Chang says social intervention programmes implemented in the violence-riddled parish of St James over the years have failed to reduce major crimes in the parish.

The minister said there has been a recurring decimal in the recent calls for the implementation of social intervention programmes in the parish. However, he said crime has continued to rise steadily over the years in the parish, despite it being through approximately a dozen different social interaction programmes.

“Every single social intervention measure that can be thought of has been done in St James; every single one has been active [yet the] homicide rate has moved from 12 per 100,000 to 182 per 100,000. Where is the success? I would like someone to show me,” said Dr Chang.

“That is the fact of life; I am not guessing,” added the security minister. He said that through different political administrations, “there has been no significant variation of social programmes [yet] there has been a constant rise in crime – and in 2017 we got to 182 per 100,000”.

The minister, who was addressing a violence prevention and peace-building symposium at Montego Bay Community College on Thursday, said murders in the parish escalated between 1997 and 2017, and the introduction of a state of emergency (SOE) in 2018 was the only measure that curved the trend when first introduced last year.

“There is nothing else that you can point to that has had any dramatic effect on the saving of lives in Montego Bay [and the wider St James] than the state of emergency. If anybody here can name me one other measure I will be very happy to hear.

“...For the first time we have had a significant fall in crimes, saving well over 200 Jamaican lives. We have seen a drop in the mayhem and slaughter on the streets of Montego Bay since the introduction of the state of emergency,” stated Dr Chang.

The SOE, which ran for a year, ended after the parliamentary Opposition withdrew its support at the start of 2019. It was, however, reintroduced in the western parishes of St James, Hanover and Westmoreland on Tuesday, April 30, and was extended in July by the House of Representatives to October 28 after the crimes in that section of the island began to inch up again.

Dr Chang, who is the Member of Parliament for St James North Western, has suggested that spending money on schools and public health would help in curtailing violence in St James.

“If you are seeking to curtail violence, school and public health areas are the two critical areas that I think resources should be put in. I make no apologies for that,” Dr Chang said.

“I criticise the PMI (Peace Management Initiative) and CSJP (Citizen Security and Justice Programme), and I do so without any malice. You need to change direction. Find those families in public health. The first sign of problems is what a mother brings her children to when they start showing signs of malnourishment of one kind or another. And you can find out whether it is through neglect, lack of opportunity, or overcrowding. You find the problem immediately [after] you start working,” stated Dr Chang, who is a medical doctor.

“The money you are spending on violence prevention will in 20 years time not be necessary,” the minister added, as he made acase for focus on health and education.

During the panel discussion, president of Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Janet Silvera disclosed that a study commissioned by the chamber two years ago showed that poverty, unemployment and undereducation had a direct impact on crime.

“The report, done by by doctors Denarto Dennis and Leroy Binns of The University of the West Indies, showed that between 1976 and 1999 the 11 anti-crime programmes implemented failed miserably,” lamented Silvera.

“They included the following initiatives: Echo Squad, 1976; Ranger Squad, 1980; Eradication Squad, 1981; Operation Intrepid, 1999; and the list goes on, and on,” added Silvera.

“This pandemic known as crime must be eradicated, and what we know is that Government cannot do this alone. It will require an all-hands-on-deck commitment, which includes the private sector; the various organisations such as the PMI, CSJP; the mnisters fraternal; Government and Opposition,” stated Silvera.


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