PNP proposes 10-point anti-crime plan

BY DEANDRA MORRISON
Observer staff reporter
morrisond@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

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OPPOSITION Leader Dr Peter Phillips yesterday put forward a 10-point anti-crime plan that he believes will help to stem the runaway murders that are threatening to mar the country's image as a major tourism destination.

This is the second such crime plan being put forward by the Opposition since last year.

Phillips, speaking at a post-shadow Cabinet retreat press conference at the People's National Party's (PNP) Old Hope Road headquarters in Kingston, said the Opposition's crime plan is being offered because of Government's failure to put forward one.

“We have urged the Government to set out a strategic direction regarding the confrontation with crime, and violence — a crime plan so to speak — and so far it has not been forthcoming,” Phillips said.

He added that the PNP made its request on the basis that the Government would have had the most relevant and up-to-date information to coordinate an in-depth crime plan.

Last year, 1,635 people were murdered while there were 1,469 shootings. Of the 1,635 murdered, 355 took place in the tourism capital of the country, St James, which is now under a state of emergency. A total of 100 murders have been recorded so far this year.

“In the absence of such a plan from the Government, we are prepared to have our plan form the basis of a discussion,” the PNP leader said.

The shadow Cabinet's 10-point plan placed specific emphasis on the reformation of the security forces.

“First of all, we need to recognise that the morale of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is at an all-time low and that it is very difficult for us to call upon them to confront the criminals in the street when their morale is low,” he said.

Phillips suggested that the Government speak with public sector workers and seek their support in putting the police's request for a wage increase at the “head of the line, given the level of threat posed by the rising violent crime that affects all Jamaicans”.

He added that legal fees should be paid for police officers who have been prosecuted by the Independent Commission of Investigations or by the courts because of actions taken during the line of duty.

The PNP also called for “an end to political interference in the operations of the security forces”.

Added to that, Phillips stated that Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the Minister of National Security Robert Montague must stop all interferences in the operations of the police force.

“The recent reports of impropriety of the Firearm Licensing Authority [and] the debacle surrounding the used car fiasco show the risks that surround political involvement in operational matters,” he said.

The PNP called on the Government to cancel its present contract for the importation of used cars with O'Brien's International Car Sales & Rentals Limited and fulfil the JCF request for 800 vehicles.

“I'm not talking about used vehicles, but vehicles for that purpose. In fact, most police vehicles across the world are vehicles that are specially prepared and custom-built to face the rigours of police service,” the Opposition leader, who once served as security minister, said. He added that there is a need to upgrade technologies used for crime-fighting activities such as drones that could monitor high-crime areas.

“We are prepared to meet with anyone who is sincere and who wants to find a way forward. We would have preferred that the Government tell us what they had planned, because that was what it was elected to do,” he said.

Another suggestion from the PNP's shadow Cabinet was the establishment a special major investigation task force with the specific mandate “dedicated to the investigation of murders in the high-crime areas with focus on tracking top crime producers and persons of interest”.

Along with these recommendations Phillips also suggested that:

• the number of JCF staff be increased by 3,500;

• the Administration addresses corruption within Government and established businesses;

• the Government accelerates the justice reform system and ensures that “the approximately 400,000 cases creating backlog in the justice system are handled with dispatch; and that

• social interventions are strengthened to accommodate the cooperation between communities and the security forces.

When asked about funding for the plans proposed, Phillips was adamant that the Government needs to pool resources from other areas of the budget if needed.

“If crime persists, then tourism, which is our main driving force, will pay the price and other areas of productivity are going to be affected as well,” he said.

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