Encouraging news on crime, but there's more to be doneMonday, September 15, 2014
THERE is a long way to go before Jamaica's crime rate can be considered tolerable. However, news that the country is actually on course to recording less than 1,000 murders for the first time in many, many years is extremely encouraging.
We are told in yesterday's Sunday Observer that, up to last Friday, murders since the start of the year stood at 698 — 121 or 15 per cent less than for the same period last year. A major task for the new police commissioner, Dr Carl Williams and his team will be to maintain that downward trend in murders, which is the barometer most watched by Jamaicans when crime is assessed.
The implications of a steadily reducing crime rate for the society and the struggling economy are enormous. Safer communities invariably lead to growth in confidence among the populace. The reverse is also true. That greater sense of safety and confidence triggers economic growth, since businesses are then inclined to stay open for longer and potential investors much more prepared to put their money on the line.
In countries with low crime rates, factories routinely do double and triple shifts with massive positive spin-offs for employment and production. Security costs — a huge minus for doing business in Jamaica — will presumably fall in a low-crime environment.
Obviously then, the security forces must press ahead in regaining full control of areas where criminals and gangs still flourish, and where illegal activities such as lotto scamming prevail.
Despite the scarcity of resources, the police must maintain strong and proactive mobility in order to curb the movement of criminals, especially at nights. It is no secret that many criminals, finding themselves increasingly under pressure in urban centres, are seeking to establish themselves in previously quiet and peaceful deep rural areas.
Obviously, too, the drive within the police force to root out internal corruption is essential to this fight against crime.
This newspaper won't join those who would throw up their hands in despair. Indeed, we believe that, over the last 10 years especially, Jamaica has got much better at dealing with this problem of police corruption.
An aspect that requires much work is relations between the police and the public. It is often said, with good reason, that the public needs to show more co-operation and appreciation for the police; to see themselves as partners with the security forces in the fight against crime.
The reverse is also true. The police, it seems to us, must see themselves not just as partners of the citizenry, but as their servants. The police should be working with the people in their areas, helping to build community organisations which will redound to the greater good of law and order.
Also, Dr Williams and his high command should take another look at those manning front desks at police stations throughout the land. The anecdotal evidence suggests that all too often it's the ignorant, crude, frustrated, and embittered who are left to interface with the public.
As history has repeatedly shown, and as any customer relations specialist will readily testify, that approach is just a recipe for disaster.
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