The reduction in homicides 2023
I have been listening to the reaction of the public to the 7.8 per cent reduction in homicides for the calendar year 2023 for Jamaica.
Almost all have ‘thrown water’ on the noted reduction.
Some have done that because of politics, some because it seems too little, some because they say that it’s too high for too long, and some because of just plain ignorance. They just don’t understand crime and crime control.
To all the naysayers, let me tell you that the fight to control and bring down that crime rate was waged by your country’s police officers and soldiers and it has our sweat and blood on it.
So you’re not belittling the politician you don’t like, you’re belittling us.
That being said, let’s look on its significance, how it was achieved and how it can be improved.
To understand its significance look on the numbers from our last peak in 2017.
It shows that 1,647 people were killed in that year. This reduction is 254 people. This is a 15 per cent improvement from that peak. It also has other relevance; 2017 was the year that Antony Anderson became commissioner of police.
This reduction represents a success story for him and his management team.
Okay, so Commissioner Anderson’s tenure is coming to an end this year. Can this same reduction level be achieved over the next six years?
Well, his management team will remain even when he is gone and it’s an admirable representation of a multi-talented slew of professionals.
There is a rich mixture of operational expertise, investigative experience, high-level academia and administrative prowess.
If this 15 per cent is achieved twice in six-year jaunts over the coming 12 years, then we may break the 1,000 murder mark by going below it. At least it would be in reach.
So how was this done?
I think the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) members are more motivated. This is a cross between the affection and respect for the holders of the top posts in the organisation, and the increase in remuneration, particularly the overtime component. This, although occurring within the year rather than before, still had an impact.
I think the zones of special operation (ZOSO) and the states of emergency (SOE) have had a significant impact.
I also believe the anti-gang cases and their publicity, coupled with the new Gun Act, are bearing fruit.
What is particularly important though is that this has been a sustained effort over quite a few years — battering the gangs, filling up the courts, and convicting the offenders.
It is this law enforcement effort, coupled with the brave men and women of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that have the gangs on their backs.
It is important we keep them there.
No politics, no human rights activism, no corruption. Just a united country of good people fighting an enemy of evil cowards.
So many want more done; a greater reduction of homicides in a shorter period. To them I say, “This is what moderation looks like — good police work operating within the constraints of the constitution and the Parliament of the country.”
Now, we could go drastic, and this would give you the results that El Salvador has achieved.
However, you may lose your arms supply, your swift code and some allies.
It is important to decide what you want.
In the short- to medium-term crime is controlled by fear.
In the long term it is controlled by social change.
Our long-term plan has to be based on changing the minds of the minority that commit crime from actually ‘wanting’ to do it.
In the short-term plan it has to be about making them afraid to do it.
So are you safer because of the reduced homicides? Risk assessment to the regular person is not the same as it is for a gang member. They are in grave danger all the time. For the normal person it is the robbery statistic you need to look at. Why? Because this is where you are likely to get hurt.
You didn’t steal anyone’s guns, scamming money, or coke. So the gang-slaying is not really your risk, although it does extend to you.
Robberies declined by 15 per cent in 2023. This means that you are actually safer than you were. The gang effect is still the core of our problem. You see, although not all killing is gang-related, almost all are done by gangs.
Look at the Phillip Paulwell matter with his child and the child’s mother being kidnapped, then murdered. That wasn’t a gang slaying, but I see gang members’ names on the list of those involved in the killings.
I close by encouraging all who are saying it’s too minimal of a reduction in homicides to consider what we would look like if it was an increase. Think about 1,647 murders in 2017; increasing this number by 15 per cent in six years would have had us over 1,900 — looking dead in the eyes of the 2,000-a-year murder statistic.
Sounds unrealistic. It’s not. It’s actually where we would be if not for a number of decisions made by many good people.
This list includes the police officers, who refused to be intimidated by an overseas directed Indecom witch-hunt could have destroyed them and their families. A DPP who didn’t allow herself to be pushed around for popular headlines. Politicians on both sides of the floor who allowed the use of SOEs and simply regular police who occupied the ground, bored as hell, in ZOSO and other crime-control curfews.
It has been rough. I am sorry you don’t feel safer, but I wish you at least feel grateful.