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Straight talk on crime fighting


Friday, February 02, 2018

What does a murderous nation which tried everything and everybody — local and foreign — over a quarter-century do now that murder figures are worse? Prime Minister Andrew Holness, our sworn protector, must be at his wits' end as citizens are totally exposed. Yet the control of murder using Occam's Razor is simple. Police must catch or kill murderers and corral their arsenals; but the challenge is how to do it. We've had numerous security ministers, police commissioners, and political leaders talk on crime; but even the much-touted zone of special operations (ZOSO) bombed! How many wanted men or guns did it get?

We are running on empty, so Andrew turned to old stuff. He was in nappies when the big state of emergency hit. The young Turks then are now old guard. There was no personal computer, cellphone, e-mail, social media then, and friend Pearnel Charles was a firebrand. Andrew, our young leader, and security sidekick Robert Montague are of the Internet age, so we expected innovation, not a reprise of analogue, stale tactics.

We read, 'Prime minister satisfied with state of emergency in St James', as security forces “executed their duties in a commendable way”. Is he for real? Peeps think Andrew is sincere, but his value in crime fighting is suspect. We warned of musical chairs on George Quallo's appointment as commissioner of police — nothing was done. He attempted “going it alone”, without the Opposition, which was idiocy. He doubled down on ZOSO despite flawed execution and poor results. He has not disciplined Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, who tried to suppress crime reports to entice tourists into harm's way; neither did he distance himself from big-money bushing or the used police car scandal. Andrew is drama queen and set himself up by reviving his “sleep with your doors open” comment. Why? We had moved on — since hyperbole is common in politics. Is he testy or too self-absorbed to reprise this: “Though I made this comment on a campaign platform, my comment was serious. I take it personally?” Sir, in future, tell us what you are serious about, or take personally, but at the end of your term Jamaica will not sleep with doors open, so why get angry?

What is your success tally that we must unquestioningly value your views? Sir, you have ideas, but we see no results as yet. No one disrespects you; we are waiting on you to deliver and earn some. Meanwhile, Montague trifles with us. He lied about his “obeah man” relative and weeks after tells us it is not true — two lies or one lie? So let's look at likely means to control crime centred on empirical data.

We must reorganise the police. We need a police chief with urban, anti-terrorist credentials to serve for seven years. We may also hire a Gurkha patrol that is at ease in Wareika Hills or Cockpit bush with a kukri knife and beef jerky as many police like smooth roads, 'criss' cars, jerk pork, and big guns. So let's decentralise the force in five autonomous jurisdictions (Kingston Metro, Cornwall, Middlesex, Surrey, MoBay Metro) each with a chief for territorial accountability and all under unified civilian command. We then use comparative data, incentives, and sanctions to drive performance.

We support Professor Anthony Clayton. A Federal Bureau of Investigation-type entity operating across all jurisdictions, with top talent to tackle top-tier crime, is good. We also need more boots on the ground, so examine a London-type special constabulary — a trained, volunteer body with police powers, uniform and quality the regulars can't recruit. They serve for love, not cash, so Cabinet can save and increase police pay. Thousands of masons, managers, secretaries can master the police course on weekends, graduate, and commit eight hours or more per week — smart and motivated, they will protect families.

The epidemiology of crime is vital. Many look at the politics and behaviour, now let data speak. If murder is random we may find clues with overlays, regression, scatter, cluster analyses or by creating algorithms. Scientists and analytics can help us understand, characterise, solve or predict crime. Murder and music are bedfellows, so use “big data” on social media and tease out eschatology of crime. We may use data to find origin, dispersal, nodes; how crime contagion works. Andrew should give $159 million to empower The University of the West Indies and Mona GeoInformatics Institute to staff up — give them access to data and case files on murders in the last 10 years. They may find ways to control crime and earn foreign exchange from the intellectual property created. Technology is not cheap. We spend $1 billion to cut bush which grows back in six weeks, so we can buy software for facial and licence plate recognition and basic closed-circuit television integration of some 35 nodes in Kingston and MoBay. If we capture the 30 most wanted it would be money well spent.

Finally, community engagement is vital. Sir, we know you can't protect us. We see how you live and move on the streets, so we know you know too. Help us protect ourselves. The appeasement of lawless communities affirmed by the Tivoli Commission of Enquiry is sheer blackmail and can't be mainstreamed. We reflated Tivoli's economy after each revolt in the noughties, but 2010 was a big payday; reparation of hundreds of millions (per capita?) and counting. Tivoli's next revolt due, say, 2027, may earn them $1 billion. Should Rae Town try it? Sir, some 1,616 of our kin were buried last year, none of your family, thank God, so get us trained, organised by police to protect our kids. By doing this you will protect Jamaica one community at a time and free up police for emergencies. Stay conscious!


Franklin Johnston, DPhil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and teaches logistics and supply chain management at the Mona School of Business and Management at The University of West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.

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