Towards a national consensus on combating crime

Towards a national consensus on combating crime

Commissioner of Police Antony Anderson says all must get on board


Sunday, January 12, 2020

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The publication by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) of last year's crime figures has sparked a national conversation, but for the force, the statistics are part of a bigger picture.

Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson has consistently maintained that “The violent crime figures are way too high.”

Time and time again he has reiterated the point that, “these figures represent citizens; they are not merely statistics; we are speaking of lives lost, families grieving and a nation violently losing its people. We need to change as a people”.

According to the JCF, in order to significantly impact these figures, Jamaicans must take a collaborative approach and make a national commitment to addressing the issue of violence in our society.

“No citizen should be comfortable with the levels of violent crime being inflicted on the country by rogue elements,” Anderson said in an interview with this publication.

Citing data showing the policing initiatives implemented in high-violence areas and the organisation's ongoing modernisation strategy, Anderson offered that “they have begun to bear fruit and save lives”.

A 15-year analysis of violent crime figures shows a persistent level of homicides that have remained in excess of 1,000 since 2005. During this time there were intervals when the figures trended downward, largely due to specific crime-reduction measures that were implemented.

The police chief is of the view that the absence of a national consensus stymied the continuity of the downward trend, as the strategies were not sustained an approach he insists needs to be taken to yield consistent success.

“We have examined all the strategies that have worked in the last 15 years and have refined them. Only with a national consensus and a consistent implementation of these strategies will we see a rapid decline in violent crimes,” the commissioner explained.

The states of public emergency (SOEs), first implemented in 2018, have so far proven, according to Anderson, to be one of the most effective ways of impacting the number of violent crimes.

“It is the tactic which almost instantaneously gives you a decline in the numbers,” said Anderson. “The best case we've had showed a 70 per cent reduction almost instantaneously.”

He, however, cautioned that the SOEs were never meant to be a stand-alone solution. “They're part of the wider plan,” reasoned Anderson. “What they do is reduce violence and save hundreds of lives, while we shore up our other resources and capabilities.”

The SOEs, Anderson added, do not replace other policing activities.

According to the police commissioner, the security measures “give us [the police] space to thoroughly investigate and prepare high-quality cases to be placed before the courts. They allow for better police-citizen partnerships, social interventions and they also support the progression of our modernisation efforts”.

Now, the JCF is saying that they are building an agile and more disciplined police force by providing officers with the training, facilities, and requisite tools to effectively and professionally engage with the public.

These initiatives, the force said, will significantly enhance their efforts to increase staff capacity and citizen confidence, deter and reduce violent crimes, increase conviction rates, and make our communities safer.

In a recent statement, the JCF pointed out the importance of partnerships and public engagement: “The overall effort to remove disorder and mobilise the groundswell of support among our citizens for a safer Jamaica requires continuous engagement with the public and private sectors, community-based interests, and our international partners.”

The constabulary has had a history of collaborating with several groups, and that strategy has now intensified in this new thrust for stronger public engagement.

The JCF said it is encouraged by the public expressions of support from a coalition of private sector bodies, including the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce.

“I welcome this move, and by maintaining a close partnership with the public we are able to do better police work and fulfil our mandate. Jamaica's security may be our job, but it is every Jamaican's responsibility. Wherever we are, and whatever the circumstances, each of us can be a force for good by simply observing the rule of law and showing respect for all,” Anderson stated.

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