Jamaica's crime cancer — A matter for the police


Jamaica's crime cancer — A matter for the police


Thursday, November 02, 2017

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Every man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. No one knows for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. — John Donne

The death of a loved one is a painful experience that takes years to subside. It is even more excruciating when that death is caused by violence — an experience that is only too common among a growing number of Jamaicans. Our experience in Jamaica has been one in which violent death is commonplace in our existence as, on any given day, Jamaicans take the lives of, on average, four Jamaicans.

Between 2002 and 2016, a total of 19,757 Jamaicans died at the hands of other Jamaicans — an average of 1,317 murders per year and at a rate of 47 murders per 100,000 of our population. At our current daily murder rate this year we are on track to lose 1,465 Jamaicans serving to cement the number of violent deaths as a normal part of our psyche, especially if you live in areas of the island regularly visited by this scourge.

It is interesting that, while our island swims in the blood of our nationals, the police continue to present crime statistics showing a reduction in most other areas of criminal activity — a tactic, in my opinion, designed to blunt the impact of our galloping murder rate and to provide the impression that they are, at least, doing their best despite the odds.

It would appear that the Jamaican public has bought into this ploy and, from all appearances, it is working even as the streets of our cities bathe in the blood of fellow Jamaicans. Each report of a new killing may elicit the occasional gasp of disgust after which we continue about our business as if this is a normal existence.

Let us not forget the fact that the Jamaica Constabulary Force is expected to spearhead any action against criminal activity in the island; a responsibility encapsulated in its motto: To serve, to protect and to reassure.

The force is our first line of defence in the fight against crime and, based on the runaway history of murder in the island over the past three decades, one would be hard-pressed to say that they are delivering on that objectives.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force commands a significant portion of the annual allocations to the National Security Ministry ($57 billion allocated this year), yet year after year criminal activities have only succeeded in mushrooming.

Recall in January of this year Acting Commissioner of Police Novlette Grant's reading of a table of statistics of performance. This suggested that there was a 57 per cent 'cleared-up' rate for murders. Nothing was said of the remaining 43 per cent, and in the circumstances it becomes useless even asking about cold cases over three and five years old. What's more, no one posed any question as to how many of the individuals charged by the police for murder in 2016, and even back in 2014 and 2015, have been successfully convicted of those crimes and are now serving time for those activities.

Of note, Jamaica's conviction rates for the crime of murder is well under 10 per cent, which means that nine out of 10 people charged by the police for these crimes walk away free.

I would like to pose the same question to the current Commissioner of Police George Quallo, including questions with respect to crimes such as robbery, rape, possession of illegal firearms and ammunition. How many of the more than 17,000 individuals arrested by the police for various offences last year have been tried and convicted for those offences?

Jamaica's current crime problem begs for an operational and accountability audit under current circumstances. And, there are a number of hard questions that must be asked of our police; questions that most of us have dodged because they may embarrass our friends and compatriots, some of whom may be serving in the organisation.

These questions begin with:

1) Since our Independence in 1962, has there been a crime plan developed by the police to address the crime-management needs of the country annually? If this is so, how many revisions have there been to such a plan, and in what year was the most recent revision completed?

2) What are the targeted objectives provided to the respective divisional commanders on an annual basis? And, are the performances of these commanders reviewed against these stated objectives?

3) Does the police high command have a structure in place that sees to a buying-in to the shared crime management objectives and what provisions are in place for timely periodic reviews at divisional levels?

4) Has the police high command ever conducted a human resource audit among its officers and other ranks to determine the capacity of these officers to interpret and otherwise implement strategic objectives or tactical applications to blunt criminality under their respective commands?

5) Are promotions and appointments based on the performance of individuals, and are there provisions for sanctions, including termination, when targets are not met.

6) Are divisional commanders charged with the responsibility for the performances of officers under their command, inclusive of identifying training needs, providing motivation and management of positive morale among team members?

7) Why are divisional commanders and other ranking officers who are dogged with track records of failure year in, year out not kicked out of the force, instead of being transferred around the island to rack up additional failures and feed into the demoralisation of the men and women under their command?

It is full time that Jamaicans demand more of our public servants in the performance of their functions, and the Jamaica Constabulary Force is the one organisation that touches the lives of most Jamaicans every single day, whether directly or indirectly. It is time that we hold them to account and stop accepting the litany of excuses for their proven incompetence at this point, because a country that is not at war and with a small population of 2.8 million should not be reporting an average of 1,357 murders per annum. And we say we are a country in which law and order is not being maintained.

I am positive that our criminal population is less than 0.01 per cent of our population, and I am sure that the mechanisms exist through which we can get on top of this problem. The reality is that it is up to the men and women of the Jamaica Constabulary Force to solve it.

What I would ask is, do we have the best men and women with the required analytical and intellectual competence looking at these problems?

Jamaica's crime problem is not merely one caused by poverty and lack of opportunity; it is a problem that has been allowed to spiral out of control by a deficiency of competence and management incapability. This is the immediate requirement of our police apparatus at this time. It does not do any of us any good whatsoever, regardless of our political stripe, for Jamaica's murder and our crime rates to continue at this level.

I do believe that both our current Prime Minister Andrew Holness and National Security Minister Robert Montague, like their predecessors, have the interest of Jamaicans and their personal security at heart. I also believe that the majority of the men and women serving in the Jamaica Constabulary Force are committed to doing a good job, but simply lack quality and insightful leadership. We all need, though, to speak with one voice and to demand more from the Government and our public servants.

Right now, Jamaica's crime cancer is eating us alive, and even if we put in all the social intervention programmes desired, crime management and control is still a matter for the police.

Richard Hugh Blackford is a self-taught artist, writer and social commentator. He shares his time between Coral Springs, Florida, and Kingston, Jamaica. yardabraawd.com Send comments to the Observer or richardhblackford@gmail.com.


Jamaica's crime problem is not merely one caused by poverty and lack of opportunity, it is a problem that has been allowed to spiral out of control by a deficiency of competence and management incapability. This is the immediate requirement of our police apparatus at this time. It does not do any of us any good whatsoever, regardless of our political stripe, for Jamaica's murder and our criminal rates to continue at this level

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