I was on a radio programme recently and was asked to suggest 10 resolutions to reduce homicides in 2022. My suggestions seemed to startle many of the listeners and I received a plethora of calls and messages about the proposed remedy.
I basically had said, as I said in this column recently, that nothing that the Government can do, other than a national state of emergency, will impact murders considerably. I further said that for the medium term of approximately three years, the country needs to take the legislative steps to remove bail as a right and to move towards the reintroduction of an internment Act, similar to the Suppression of Crime Act that was repealed in 1994.
The responses I received have proven what I had thought all along — uptown is just not getting it.
Why do I say this?
Well, the essence of the messages that I received is concern for our freedoms and democracy, etcetera. That concern is not in keeping with a citizen contemplating the murder of his family. It is in keeping with a country with time to consider its future democratic structure.
But guess what. We are out of time. We are at war. The enemy is no longer on the border, he has entered through the gate. But this reality has not travelled uptown yet.
I guarantee you, however, that the citizens of Gregory Park, Naggo Head and Newlands would express significantly less concern about our future civil and human rights. Why? Because the lives of their sons and daughters are in peril every time they re-enter their community.
They know they are at war. They have buried family members and neighbours. They beg the police not to leave their streets at nights. They could not care less about the presumption of innocence of the guy who is going to pump hot lead into their children's head. This is the reality of our poor. This is soon to be the reality of all of us.
Let me spell it out again: There are two ways to fight crime in the medium to long term. One is to create an atmosphere of fear of the response of the State. The second is to create an environment where through police saturation in high crime zones you can control the ground so that crime is highly unlikely.
The atmosphere of fear is not possible because the Bail Act guarantees the offenders bail and the first point of contact with the criminal court is the Gun Court, which, based on its current sentence structure, is sort of like a traffic court.
Increased investigation capabilities will not serve as a deterrent if the criminals know they can get bail and that their guilty pleas will land them a fine or a short sentence. Also, the legal system is already bursting at its seams. That does not happen unless the investigations are successful.
The saturation cannot occur because the armed forces are 40 per cent under their required staffing. This is something that most security company operators can understand because people are always expecting the impossible from us. It, however, usually comes to a head eventually. Well, we have now come to a head nationally.
It is time to act on our circumstances rather than our wishes. We are experiencing domestic terrorism. We need a solution that is in keeping with a nation that is in that debacle.
The Americans when faced with this threat introduced the Homeland Security Act. The British when faced with the crisis in Northern Ireland introduced the Internment Act. Why do we think that we are better than they?
Do you know that over the entire conflict in Northern Ireland, 3,000 people lost their lives over 10 years? We have that in a little over two years.
We need to value lives more than freedom. We have become used to the carnage.
The reason that the Government introduced the Suppression of Crime Act in 1974 and a one-stop prison for life Gun Court is that murder and slaughter were new to us in 1974. Therefore, we reacted with extreme measures.
The issue is that we are okay with murder now. We will be until Graham Heights becomes Gregory Park.
It is simply a matter of time before the murder tally of our middle class and upper class becomes similar to that of our poor. Maybe then they will get the message.
So these are some solutions: Start to look at gangsters as enemies of the State and when detained – as prisoners of war. The thought process is where it begins.
Next, stop squabbling and effect a national state of emergency. This should be with the specific intention to inter, en masse, all gang members, not impose curfews to strangle the economy.
Restrict the internment decisions to the commissioner of police and his deputies.
Create a temporary remand facility at Up Park Camp. Start the legislative and constitutional processes to remove bail as a right and reintroduce an Internment Act.
Develop a real Jamaica Constabulary Force auxiliary that allows for part-time participation with an aim to achieve saturation of high-crime zones.
There will be consequences. We may not be able to remain a signatory to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. This could impact aid and our ability to access arms. I get this. The question is: Are your families lives worth it? I know mine are.
What are you so afraid of? Do you really think that the men I suggested would put innocent men in jail? If not, then why are you so worried about a bunch of killers' rights? Is it because you don't feel their breaths at your neck?
I hear people calling for changes in the decision makers. Let me tell you — whether it is I, you, Colonel Trevor McMillian, General Antony Anderson, or General Patton making the decisions — there will be no improvement without the correct numbers of the armed forces.
Eleven thousand officers cannot do the job that requires 18,000. It is that simple.
Do my steps seem extreme? The reality is that there are no moderate solutions. We can set timelines for the measures. After 10 years, or even five, we can reassess, maybe reverse.
At least they will know what we are capable of and that we will do it again.