Montego Bay needs a crime summit
Former president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, prominent national commentator and Jamaica Observer columnist Lloyd B Smith wrote spot on in an informative and interesting column dated Friday, December 15, 2023, appropriately headlined ‘St James needs a crime plan’.
Quite scandalously, since the start of the year over 180 murders have taken place across the parish of St James. “Governor” Smith is so correct when he writes that many of the murders in the parish are directly linked to the deadly lottery scamming crimes. Gang-related crimes, reprisal murders, and a serious lack of well-paying and meaningful jobs in the parish.
The well-informed, fearless, and intellectually ebullient Smith also, instructively, pointed out that a recent survey which was carried out by the University of the Caribbean Commonwealth, commissioned by the Oral Heaven-led Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, showed that the citizens of Montego Bay were extremely sympathetic towards the police in that they believe that the police are under-equipped and highly under-resourced. They did not believe that the states of public emergency (SOEs) and zones of special operations (ZOSOs) were effective; 70 percent of respondents said the police response to crime was not effective, while noting that regular police patrols were much more effective than the ZOSO strategy.
Let me respond frankly that the St James police are woefully under-equipped and really need a 100 per cent increase in their budget in order to allow them to make positive inroads in successfully tackling the out of control murder, crime, lottery scamming, cybercrime, and illegal narcotics crimes rate within St James.
The parish, as I wrote in a former Observer column, now has the most organised, well connected, and well funded gangs in the country, numbering over 20 as posited by the police.
St James Police Division needs much more funding, equipment, manpower, and resources if they are to effectively reduce the serious crimes taking place in Montego Bay and across the parish. It is my view that National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, one of the most hard-working, dedicated and devoted Cabinet ministers, along with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, need to allocate more resources to the parish’s crime fight.
A Montego Bay Crime Summit is urgently needed as well with the police commissioner, chief of defence staff, director general of Major Organised Crime & Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) Colonel Desmond Edwards along with the business, civic, religious and major community leaders of Montego Bay, and the five St James Members of Parliament Chang, Edmund Bartlett, Marlene Malahoo-Forte, Heroy Clarke and Homer Davis to comprehensively discuss the various crime problems engulfing the parish and to effectively tabulate a policy framework of going forward to tangibly reduce serious organised crime. Nothing less is acceptable at this time.
Montego Bay certainly needs, urgently, a well-funded, workable and effective new crime reduction plan. At this point in time SOEs just will not cut it; they are a waste of taxpayers money and the overall crime problems are just getting worse. The major criminal gangs operating with impunity in St James must be investigated, found, and their gang members and leaders arrested, charged, and brought before the courts with strong, firm, and tangible evidence which will allow them to be convicted in the courts to some lengthy prison sentences.
The Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Lottery Scamming Task Force needs to be revamped, restructured and given a larger budget to allow them to go after the major lottery scammers in the parish. Minister Chang should also allocate some new vehicles to the Narcotics Division based in the Area One Police Division and further equip them with additional intelligence gathering equipment.
Over to you, Dr Horace Chang. Hope to see you whenever that Montego Bay Crime Summit is held.
Robert Dalley is a citizen of Montego Bay. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.