COUNCILLOR for the Waterford Division in Portmore, St Catherine, Fenley Douglas is calling on parliamentarians to make stronger legislations and to deter would-be kidnappers.
Douglas, who called for the legislation to include higher fines and longer prison times, made the call after what he said is an increase in the number of people being abducted in Portmore and taken to banking machines, where they are forced to withdraw money from their accounts and hand over to their abductors.
The Portmore police were, however, unable to confirm an increase in the number of kidnappings in the municipality.
The councillor cited one recent case where a woman was abducted after taking a taxi. He said the woman was instructed to withdraw money from her ATM and when the kidnappers found that her account didn't have enough money, the kidnappers called her relatives living abroad and demanded a ransom.
“Parliamentarians [should] put the relevant legislation in place so that we don't wait until this is out of control. We need stronger punishment [for these people],” Douglas said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.
At present, anyone convicted of kidnapping can be sentenced up to 20 years in prison but could end up serving time of only 12 years.
“Just like how they can manage to put the anti-gang legislation in place, they have managed to put the lottery scamming legislation in place, [I think anti-kidnapping legislation] will be a deterrent for unscrupulous persons who are preying on others.”
The councillor said he was particularly concerned that women are at a greater risk than men, saying that a number of women employed to call centres in the parish have to take public transportation and so become easy target for would-be abductors.
Anthropologist at The University of the West Indies, Mona, Dr Herbert Gayle told the Observer that legislators should be cautious if considering increasing the number of years in prison for kidnappers.
“Kidnapping could actually be contextual. There are a number of out-of-norm acts of violence going on, but a lot of it is caused because of the desperation caused by COVID,” Gayle said.
He further stated that the issue of kidnapping and forcing persons to withdraw money from their bank account requires investigation before the Government can act.
“We don't know the context of why certain crimes are increasing while certain other types of crimes are decreasing,” said Gayle, explaining that if the issue is temporary it might not require the country to panic.
“Behaviour itself can start and become viable and even after COVID [has] passed it continues. We might need to look at how to discourage persons,” said Gayle.
Douglas and Gayle both proposed that educating the public about the risk that comes with living in these desperate times, and how persons can protect themselves, might be an effective measure to protect citizens.
“At the local level we can just ask for more policing; we can go with greater education [by] telling our persons not to travel alone; ask the banks to have greater security; [ask bank customers to] choose those ATM machines that are properly lit — and if you don't have go [to the ATM] alone, don't go,” Douglas stated.
Echoing Douglas's statement Gayle said, “Some degree of education might be needed because you have to educate people as to the fact that [these are] more desperate [times] and they need to be more cautious when you go to the ATM now.”
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