Criminologist McKay thinks national SOE would be better

Criminologist Dr Jason McKay prefers the imposition of a national state of emergency (SOE) instead of concentrating the anti-crime activity on geographical regions.

McKay, who is also a Sunday Observer columnist, said that such a move would mean that it would be harder for criminals to escape the dragnet of the security forces.

Forty-eight people have been killed since Prime Andrew Holness declared SOEs in seven police divisions two weeks ago.

Speaking alongside Holness during a virtual press conference to announce the SOEs on Sunday, November 14, Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson said the island had recorded 1,240 murders as at Friday, November 11.

Up to Friday, November 20, 1,288 people had been murdered.

Dr McKay, CEO of McKay Security, told the Jamaica Observer that given the current crime predicament, the most ideal thing to do would be declaring a national SOE.

“The solution, really, is a national SOE where the power of arrest is islandwide and detention is islandwide. So, therefore, wherever the guys (criminals) move, the same law applies and they can be arrested wherever they move to. What is required is a national SOE, but they only have so much resources. They are 40 per cent short on personnel so they just don't have the resources to do an effective national SOE,” McKay said in a recent interview.

“It's alarming that so many are being killed but it is keeping with the trend of the year. The SOE has just begun, and it will take time to feel it's effect. Also, it is not declared nationally. It is declared parochially. So, the effects will be as it is applied. The immediate plan of the SOE is a real stop gap, but for them to do a parochial SOE, it reduces the murders only in those zones and then the other gangs with less resources in their zones start to commit the murders,” the criminologist added.

This has only happened once in Jamaica, when on June 19, 1976, a national SOE was declared and lasted until June 1977.

The seven SOEs were declared in St James, Westmoreland and Hanover in rural Jamaica, along with four police divisions in Kingston and St Andrew.

McKay told the Sunday Observer that Jamaicans should expect to see results from the SOEs overnight.

“What happens is the guys will start to move out of the places where the resources were moved into. But then there are other places that become under-resourced, and the murders move there.”

However, last Thursday, a vote in the Senate effectively prevented the SOE from running beyond yesterday, as members of the Government side of the Upper House needed support from the parliamentary Opposition in order for it to continue. The result in the Senate was 13 in favour and three against. Five Opposition senators were absent when the vote was taken. The Government needed endorsement from the Senate to continue beyond November 28 when the proclamations from the governor general are scheduled to expire.

Also, at the community level where feeding the police with information is concerned, McKay rubbished claims that police can't be trusted.

“The trust factor is an excuse. There are many opportunities to give information anonymously,” he said.

On Tuesday, November 23, one of McKay's security officers shot and killed a man said to be challenged mentally, who is alleged to have killed his mother at their home in Greater Portmore, St Catherine.

It was reported that after doing so, the man approached a security guard who was sitting in his white Toyota Succeed motor car near a guard house located in the Phoenix Park community in the parish.

The man allegedly threatened to kill the security guard, who escaped from the car through a back door and then alerted one of his colleagues after the man stole his car. The report stated that another security guard confronted the man and fired shots in his direction, hitting him. The man was taken to the Spanish Town Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Last week, senior communications strategist at the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Dennis Brooks told the Sunday Observer that despite being named 'Duhaney Park Police Station,' the station serves a broader area outside the community of Duhaney Park.

That came after residents in the area lamented crime happening in the space amidst the police presence. Some called for more police stations in the St Andrew South Division.

But McKay pointed to the futility of more police stations being constructed to aid in crime fighting and restoring peace in “hot” communities.

“The Olympic Gardens police station became famous when Sandokhan took it down in the 80s and killed police officers and stole guns. So, having stations that are not large enough in volatile communities to secure themselves is a problem. If you're going to have stations inside hot zones, they have to be very infrastructurally sound and adequately staffed to defend themselves,” he said.

Wayne Smith, otherwise called ''Sandokhan'', was a don whose gang ruled Waterhouse and its environs in the mid-80s. Sandokhan had reportedly felt that the police had “dissed” his girlfriend when they raided her house in Eastwood Park Gardens, St Andrew, on November 18, 1986, about 11:00 am, in search of him.

He and his gang members attacked the station in retaliation about 1:00 am on November 19, 1986. Three policemen were killed, the station was set afire, and the weapons storeroom was looted.

Sandokhan was charged with murder, arson and robbery, and sentenced to death in the Home Circuit Court. But on June 15, he escaped from death row at the St Catherine District Prison.

Then on September 8, 1988, Sandokhan's body was found in bushes in the community of Tower Hill. It had multiple gunshot wounds and believed to have been inflicted by members of a gang.

If not criminal-proof, McKay said, a police station will become more of a community station rather than an anti-gang battle ground.

“They would be so vulnerable. They almost have to be like small military outposts if you're going to put them in places with lots of men with lots of high-powered weaponry. And if you notice, the tendency was also to attack Hanna Town Police Station in the West Kingston Division because it was viewed as being one of the weaker ones because it was smaller. With that precedent, it's not that easy to put many stations in many places,” he reasoned.

In terms of criminality, McKay believes that Jamaican criminals are far gone and cannot be appealed to at this point.

“We need to accept that mass and permanent incarceration of the gang members is required,” he said.

Jason McKay
BY ROMARDO LYONS Staff reporter lyonsr@jamaicaobserver.com

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