Criminal Records Office still drawing ire despite ease in crowding
A small gathering outside the Criminal Records Office on Duke Street in Kingston despite recent steps taken to reduce overcrowding. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

THE system established to ease overcrowding outside the Criminal Records Office on Duke Street in Kingston has been doing just that but the process of obtaining a police record is no less of a hassle, according to Jamaicans.

At the beginning of August, Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson expressed that he was pleased the system had begun to manifest positive results, contributing to far less overcrowding than in previous months and years. One element of the new system was the implementation of online applications. Another element was the moving of the collection of criminal record certificates to the Police Officers' Club on Hope Road in St Andrew.

However, when the Jamaica Observer visited the Criminal Records Office at 56 Duke Street, recently, the small group of frustrated people expressed that they felt the move was a açade, as the quality of service still leaves much to be desired.

Rupert Lyons, who travelled from his home near the border of Clarendon and St Catherine to obtain a police certificate said he was not pleased with his experience and what he witnessed other people going through.

"People have been going back and forth to Hope Road and back here. My experience is that I have been waiting for the document for six weeks and when I got it, there was a correction to be done. Most of the people I see come out here for correction have been going back and forth. For the people who don't have any funds to go back and forth, it is very inconvenient. Some people can't afford it. It is not costing the Government; it is costing us.

"When I went up to Police Officers' Club, I had to wait over an hour to be assisted and then I have to go back and forth same way. They are not finding the documents and things are not in place as how they should be in place. Some people have been cussing because they are coming from miles away. It is frustrating because the system is unbalanced. When the people go to the Tax Office, they should be getting information right there and then to say go online. Why do we have to pay at one place and then when we come here we hear that we must go online. The system is not synchronised," Lyons said.

Another man, who declined to share his name, said the crowd is less than usual, but he complained about the poor quality of assistance and communication from the the Criminal Records Office staff.

"Crowding alone is not the issue. A lack of assistance is the matter. People need more information about how to go about things. Some people say the officers deal with them aggressive and ignorant or nah deal with them at all. Di people need good customer service. Some of the things that we the people have to be up and down doing, the authorities should be doing that. We have to end up doing some of the work weh di police dem supposed to a do, like find certain information," the man said.

"It is not every one of us have money. More time we only have one dollar to go to point A, then go back home. When you come here, you hear seh you have to go somewhere else. It is still hassling. Is not everybody have the knowledge to know how to go about certain things. You have to instruct them about how to go about it," he noted with displeasure.

The frustration was also clear on the faces and in the voices of the people waiting to collect their certificates at the Police Officers' Club.

One woman, who was growing increasingly impatient as she sat under a tent, was not happy with the rigmarole.

"Imagine you pay for a five-day service and when you pay for a five-day service, why you still get a month's date to come back and do the prints... and then when you come up here they give you another date. That is highway robbery. Some people come from the country and have to pay bus fare and buy food. They are playing with people. This is sad and serious for a government thing," she said.

One man, who was spotted scanning his police certificates for any mistakes, told the Observer that while he was delighted to finally be in possession of the document, nevertheless lamented that the process could be "much smoother".

"Just a while ago, around 10 people had to go back down to Duke Street after they were told to come up here. What is the point of all of that? The process must can be simpler," he added.

In June, during a tour of the Criminal Records Office, which falls under his portfolio responsibility, Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang was taken aback by the overcrowding of the facility and the complaints coming from the people.

Chang acknowledged that there was much work to be done to fix the system, pointing out that "there was still a lot of manual activities" at the office.

The minister said, "All these have to be brought into the 21st century and digitised. We need to get off that level where employees have to walk in a room looking for paper files. Even though you know where to find the files, it is a big demand on the staff while those most in need end up crowding outside. For a service that is so crucial and critical, we cannot, as a Government, treat citizens like that."

Jason Cross

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