How much is enough?
I have listened at nausea to well-meaning, intelligent persons who blame crime on the police “not doing anything”.
These are good people, they just don’t have a clue about crime control and crime fighting.
As I tell my friend ‘Balf’, who holds this opinion that “it is important that people like you who are well-intentioned but who have no concept of the problem that you must never become decision makers”, it, however, happens too often that they actually do.
Being on the other side of the playing field I see things differently. I do so because I know the degree of effort that goes into the fight against crime daily. I live it, my colleagues live it and essentially and most importantly, our families risk it.
Make no joke, it is our family’s future, safety and happiness that we put on the line.
A recent study conducted by Paul Andrew Bourne, Dennis Brooks, and Steve Lawrence into arrests made by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) entitled ‘An Evaluation of Arrests Made for Major Crime by Members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), 2017-2023’, detailed total arrests for major crimes totalling 86,347.
The study did some really interesting analysis of the categories that make up this total. But what I wish to highlight at this point is the total number of arrests. That figure is huge for a country the size of Jamaica.
So arrests come at the end of an investigation. I imagine you know that. If you are arrested and charged you normally go into a lock-up and are placed before a court.
So if 86,347 isn’t satisfying to you then what is?
What would be the figure that would represent that the police are “doing something”?
In a study that is as recent as this one, it is difficult to map the conviction rate as many of the persons charged are still before the courts.
So the question I ask is what would or will we do if they are all convicted?
We simply don’t have space to incarcerate so many prisoners. This is further compounded by the introduction of the new firearms bill that removes discretion from the judges sentencing process. In other words, you’re going to jail if you’re convicted of a firearm offenCe.
This is something that we need to talk about, because we are heading to a crisis in the very near future with the already inhuman overcrowded conditions at our penal facilities.
One of four things are going to happen.
Additional facilities will have to be found and found fast.
The Act may have to be amended to allow for suspended sentences. We will overcrowd the facilities to a point where prisoners will die or escape and this will be followed by international condemnation.
Less persons will commit gun offenCes going forward so less arrests will be made.
I am not sure which one of the above will happen, but I am hoping it’s the latter.
In fact, I am seeing a trending down of gun-related crimes already this year.
At this point, murders are down by 11 per cent, robberies by 22 per cent and shootings by nine per cent.
I really believe the new gun act and the way it was marketed has had an impact.
I expect this trend to continue.
In fact, as more gang members disappear from society for decades, culture will change.
That is big, because our violence and our crime are now our culture.
To change this is to change future behaviour.
Yet, still the good, the great and the smartest will still say “the police nah duh nutten”.
So what is “something”?
What do you want? Chilean death squads like the Pinochet era?
I hope not, so only arrests can be done. In fact, 86,000 plus have been done.
I saw this in both the periods of Dr Peter Phillips and Peter Bunting’s service as ministers of national security. Nothing they achieved was truly recognised, appreciated or acknowledged.
I am seeing the same trend with Dr Horace Chang’s era. The reduction over five years 2017 to 2022, the revamped Gun Act and 86,000 arrests are important achievements of Commissioner of Police Antony Anderson, his management team and the men and women of the JCF.
It is also is an accomplishment for the sitting minister.
However, just as Dr Peter Phillips’ successful war against narcotics trafficking has gone unnoticed, so has and will this period of improvement over five years overseen by Dr Chang.
It’s like we fear acknowledging that our leadership achieved anything.
This trickles down to those of us who walk through zinc and gully banks fighting crime. We feel unappreciated and our efforts. despite our success, seem ignored.
In 2009, the murder rate in the St Catherine South, police division was 163 murders for the year. Last year it was 120.
Check any major crime zone in the United States and see if their murders have reduced by one-third at any one time.
In 2017 in Jamaica murders were 1,647. Last year it was under 1,300. That’s hundreds less.
Police officers died to achieve that reduction. Their families were destroyed.
We need to acknowledge the sacrifice. We need to stop pretending that we are losing the war, that nothing has improved, that it’s getting worse, because that’s not true.
I believe more could be done. I see the Constitution as a stumbling block, but I recognise that it prevents us from being a “controlled” state like China, where the power doesn’t rest with the people.
I also see it as a medium to transport us to a Haitian environment, where the power lies with the warlord.
I urge every citizen to set realistic goals in your mind as it relates to what level of crime reduction you would like to see.
I want the Government and the Opposition to also state their expectations.
This way the police will have a figure to work towards to know when they have done well, because, I guess, 86,000 arrests in five years and a murder reduction of 11 per cent since last year, plus a current reduction in rape of 25 per cen, isn’t impressing anyone.
So okay then, what’s your “reasonable” expectation.