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Weaknesses in the crime Bill

Vincent
Gordon

Thursday, July 06, 2017

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The Bill outlines the Government's plan to 'Clear, Hold and Build'and provides much insight into what is likely to happen and the quality of our political leadership on both sides of the fence. I am hoping that the comments in this article will be considered and used to strengthen the plan, since so much rides on it being successful.

I also suggest that Members of Parliament (MP) who head constituencies likely to be affected should be seriously considering the implications from now.

It may be true that there are separate pieces of legislation and emergency powers already in place to govern most of the crime fighting measures that the Bill contains. But it is a good thing to get them all in one place, so that everyone knows where to seek answers once “the power to declare the area a Zone of Special Security and Community Development” has been exercised by the prime minister.

In that regard, I find that MP Peter Bunting needs to think beyond “Opposition” and consider the benefits to those who will be affected. His points relating to excess power is just unnecessary “noise” at this time, and it will waste valuable time as we seek real solutions to the disease.

It seems the focus of the Bill is on 'Clear and Hold'. This was my concern when the strategy was first announced, perhaps two months ago, and I have the same concern now. Beyond that, one must ask: What measures will be put in place to deal with what is likely to happen — the loss of innocent lives and “unlawful” destruction of property? Will those aggrieved have to wait for years? what sort of mechanism will be in place to deal with it?

I believe that the minister of national security and the attorney general should review each of these clauses/concerns, and Peter Bunting and Senator Mark Golding should focus their energies on strengthening them to so that the rights of citizens are not unnecessarily abridged.

Why no real commitment to “Build”?

My biggest problem with the bill, however, is that there is absolutely no commitment given for the “Build” element to take place, save and except for naming the Social Intervention Committee and an indication that it is being formed to develop a plan. The name, by itself, is a misnomer; it is not social intervention, it should be a “Committee for Sustainable Development”. The committee has a minimum of 10 individuals and a maximum of 22 — that is way too many. It needs to be tighter, perhaps five to seven, as too many “bottle washers” waste time. If necessary, create subcommittees chaired by a member of the main committee for practical sense.

As well, the committee is not mandated to produce a plan within any specific time frame. Nothing in the Bill commits the Government to provide resources to fund the plan. That needs to get on the table. There should be some form of commitment that a minimum of $x of every budget for the next, maybe, five years should be set aside for “Build”. That is the only way it is going to work. And who will manage this “Build” fund? A committee chaired by the MP or the minister of national security is absolutely the wrong person to prioritise interventions of this sort or allocate spend.

Nothing in the Bill mandates the minimum period of intervention. “Build” cannot take place in a year — it might take a minimum of maybe five years to create meaningful options and change culture; that should be clearly defined to hold us accountable and prevent us from doing what we do best — start and stop.

“Build” is critical to success. This is what the Opposition leader should be addressing, perhaps more than anyone else at the table today. He should understand the issue of criminality based on his stint as minister when the problem of narco-terrorists first surfaced.

If the prime minister is convinced that “Build' is the key differentiator in this strategy, he is not ensuring that it is reflected in the Bill. In essence, what we will be doing is exactly what we have done in the past; except, this time, we will perhaps “Hold” for longer. Violent crimes and murders might go down but, just as in Tivoli, they will come back.

Vincent Gordon is a consultant in turnaround management and principal of OrgStrength. He is the former general manager of 3M Jamaica and is a former vice-president of the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica and JEF. Send comments to the Observer or vgordon14@hotmail.com.

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