Are we willing to play our part in reducing crime?

Are we willing to play our part in reducing crime?

Natalie Campbell-Rodriques

Thursday, January 14, 2021

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Even the criminals themselves are concerned about the issue of crime plaguing our country. It's on everyone's minds.

Over the last few decades, every political party seeking to be elected, campaigns on being able to do what is necessary to lessen the crime rate. The Andrew Holness-led Administration campaigned in 2016 on the issue of crime being a national imperative and an urgent priority. Since then, there has been talk that the Administration has not delivered, given that criminality is still widespread for certain types of crime and especially that the murder rate has not fallen significantly.

Personally, I disagree with the argument that the current Government has not made the situation better. More than anything else, I believe the work being undertaken has brought to the fore the depth of the problem and the fact that long-term solutions are neither quick nor easy.

For a long time, the strategy has been to form special squads within the police force. These squads have had the role of weeding out criminal elements across the country. While, in certain instances, they may have produced short-term reduction in the numbers, it cannot be concluded that, as a crime strategy, the formation of special squads has made the crime situation in Jamaica better.

These days a multi-pronged approach is being undertaken by the Government, which will not immediately bear an abundance of fruit, but the strategy augurs well for a sustainable end to the growth of this scourge on our society.

As human beings we often need instant gratification and, in this instance, where our lives and those of our families are at risk, this need for immediate ease becomes even more urgent. Every law-abiding Jamaican would love to experience at least one month with zero reports of violent crimes within our borders.

Seemingly, the Government was aware of this need for immediate relief while working on the more long-term sustainable plan. Hence, the employment of states of public emergencies (SOEs) and the zones of special operations (ZOSOs). Those measures provided reprieve for many communities and individuals. Yes, the argument was and can be made that there are flaws with ZOSOs and SOEs, but I believe that we are experiencing a crisis situation, and as such special measures have to be in place until the results of more sustainable plans take root.

Outside of the short-term measures, the Government has been working on what the prime minister recently referred to as the hardware and software components of the plan to curb the crime rate in Jamaica. Within these categories he spoke of, among other things, the increased spending on varying things from better working environs for police officers, computerised systems in police stations, and more motorbikes to allow for faster and more reliable responses by the security forces. Along with this increased spending there has been a great effort to strengthen the investigative capacity of police officers. Never have we seen so many cases developed to the level where they can be brought before the courts. We see gangs being dismantled and what seems like real investigations taking place. There is room for even more, but the signs are there to show progress with how investigations are handled by the police.

In a speech last week at the Power of Faith Ministries in Portmore, St Catherine, Prime Minister Holness not only spoke of the hardware and software components of what is necessary to fight crime in Jamaica, but he also delved into the need for what he termed as “heartware”. He raised the question of what has happened with our hearts. He rallied the Church to get involved, and likened them to having medicine for the problem in the form of the Bible and the gospel. He highlighted that violence had become a disease in our country, a disease affecting people's hearts.

While listening to the speech it dawned on me that he is correct. The Government has its work cut out, and should never be let off the hook if absconding. But government policy cannot stop a mother or sister from killing a son or brother. Government policy cannot stop the senseless killing of an elderly person simply to rob them of that which they have spent their life earning and building. As a people we need to be kinder and gentler. We need to be more loving and less brash. We need to be more emotionally intelligent and, certainly, more reasonable and reasoned with our words and actions.

This was some of the advice from the prime minister while he spoke about the need for us, as a country, to work on the 'heartware' component to aid in the alleviation of the crime crisis. The question now is: Are we, as a people, willing to play our part in working on our hearts? Will the Church step up and assist with community outreach programmes aimed at kindness and caring? Will we, as parents, relearn how to punish our children in order to abandon corporal punishment?

Natalie Campbell-Rodriques is a senator and development consultant with a focus on political inclusion, governance, gender, and Diaspora affairs. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or ncampbellrodriq@gmail.com.


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