Most Montegonians don’t trust the police, survey finds
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Seventy per cent of people surveyed across almost 50 communities in Montego Bay said the St James police are ineffective and not trustworthy. Respondents also called for cops to be sent to another parish, after a year in the western resort city.
The study was conducted by researches at the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC), in partnership with Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI). The results were revealed last Friday during a crime summit hosted by the chamber.
“One of the key highlights is that of trust; trust of the police is a really big issue. And I say trust, but from the survey and from the business community it really talks about a lack of trust in the police force,” Assistant Professor Dr Cecile Dennis said during an MBCCI President’s Forum put on at The University of the West Indies Western Jamaica Chaper’s (WJC) lecture theatre in Montego Bay.
“Perceptions of the police: [For the survey question] ‘On a scale of one to five (one being the lowest and five being the highest), how much would you say you trust the police?’ And only 20 per cent said that they trusted the police. That is significant,” added Dr Dennis.
She revealed that among the recommendations from those who participated in the survey was the annual transfer of police stationed in St James.
“When you look at the recommendations, they are emotionally charged, they’re really charged. For example, we have seen the recommendation that the police personnel assigned to the Montego Bay area should not be in this area for longer than a year at a time — so residents are saying they need to be rotated frequently,” she said.
“Some residents talk about building trust, training and retraining the police to interact with persons — [and] not just to interact but to understand the role of confidentiality in protecting the citizens when they do provide information to the police,” she added.
Dr Dennis further noted that the majority of responders felt that when the police patrolled their community there was greater control over crime, “and when the police patrol the commercial district there was a more positive impact”.
“Seventy per cent of the respondents rate the police response to crime as not effective at all. However, patrols were viewed as more effective than the zone of special operations strategy,” Dr Dennis said.
She noted, however, that community members felt that the police were under-resourced.
“Persons in the community were also sympathetic towards the police force; they identified that they were lacking in significant resources. Individuals felt that [way] when they reported, for example, that they did not believe that the state of emergency or the zone of special operations were effective,” she revealed.
Dr Dennis said the study was conducted online over a four-week period.
“Our participants came from 43 communities across the Montego Bay area, which is a good spread, and those communities range from what we’ll probably call lower-, to middle-, to upper-income communit[ies]. From the business community we got really rich data because those were interviews and we had, I believe, business persons from about six sectors. So we got perspectives, for example, from the transportation sector, security sector, we got from the education sector, we had persons in business retail finance and entertainment,” she said.
The forum was held under the theme: ‘Understanding crime in St James — exploring the root causes and social intervention strategies’.