Comprehensive community organisation is essential… Why the delay?

From time to time we hear reassuring words that statistics show a decline in serious crimes, including murder.

Anecdotal evidence suggests, however, that while there may well be fewer such crimes, they are now more widespread.

So now, in rural Jamaica, there are remote communities — blissfully crime-free a few years ago — where residents now speak of fast-moving criminals robbing bars and other business places, sometimes leaving death and grief.

Such experiences have left people on edge, uneasy, uncertain about what will happen next.

It's not just crime. Improper use of the roads by motorists — driving and riding — with no thought for safety, make that unease worse.

It means, for instance, that many parents send their children off to school with their hearts in their mouths.

Such is the situation that parents and grandparents often find themselves unable to sleep at nights until the teenagers and young adults come safely home.

Then there is the building anger that can easily lead to citizens taking the law into their own hands. We speak of vigilantism.

As we have said in this space before, innocent people have been known to die when wrongly identified by the angry mob: Such as 62-year-old Mr Chieftin Campbell, who succumbed after being set upon in Mandeville last year; and 43-year-old Mr Levi Chambers in Llandewey, St Thomas, stabbed and beaten to death in October 2021.

In an incident a few days ago in Westmoreland, residents appear to have caught the perpetrators of a dastardly crime which left respected businesswoman, 39-year-old Miss Lativa Helps, dead as a result of multiple bullet wounds to the upper body.

Two men alleged to have shot Miss Helps were reportedly fleeing when they were knocked off their motorcycle by a bus — the driver of which witnessed the crime.

The men, now on foot, were chased and cornered by angry residents who chopped both — one died on the spot, the other ended up under police guard in hospital.

Obviously, the deadly assault on the subdued suspects was itself a criminal act.

After deciding to chase and confront the fleeing men, and having captured them, the lawful thing to have done was to subdue, restrain, and hand them over to police.

Let's make no mistake, community policing — without endangering self and breaking the law — should be the responsibility of every citizen.

The police, as we all know, cannot deal with crime on their own. The full support of law-abiding citizens in every respect, without them breaking the law, is essential to bringing crime to heel.

It's well established that communities with active citizens' groups, including neighbourhood watches, typically have far less crime than others.

It's the reason we keep calling for the proactive organisation of communities, as well as leadership training, to help people deal lawfully with not just crime, but related socio-economic factors such as poverty, ignorance, and illiteracy.

As we keep saying, our political leaders, working together across party lines, should lead in this endeavour with the help of individuals, such as justices of the peace, pastors, teachers, business leaders, and public and private agencies including the Social Development Commission, and civil society, et al.

Once again we plead with our national leaders: Let's get to it.

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