PM reiterates tough stance against gangsters
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) looks at the new concrete walkway at McDonald Place in his St Andrew West Central constituency with Caribbean Cement Company Managing Director Yago Castro (right) and the company's Industrial and Business Solutions Manager Andre Nelson on Thursday. The walkway, which was paved by Caribbean Cement Comany, eliminates the dust and mud nuisance that previously affected residents. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness on Thursday reiterated his Administration's drive against gangs as he told residents in a section of his St Andrew West Central constituency that closed-circuit television cameras will be installed there.

The announcement appeared to have made some people uneasy. However, Holness told them that the objective of having the technology installed was not to spy on them, but to protect them and make it easy for law enforcers to identify people who commit crimes in the area.

Responding to journalists who asked whether there were attempts by some gangsters in the community to maintain peace while others opted to disrupt it, Holness said, "Let me point out that this Government does not negotiate with gang members. We don't buy this argument that there is one gang member trying to keep a community safe. If you are a gang member you are a threat to the safety and security of the State, and there should be no importance accorded to anyone involved in a gang. Gangs do nothing but destroy this country and they are not operating in the favour of citizens. They operate for their own selfish economic goals and therefore they must be dealt with with the full force of the law."

Declaring that "gangs must be eliminated from our society", Holness said that his Government was the first to truly target and punish people involved in criminal organisations.

"You will see that this Administration is the first to bring gangs to the criminal justice system and through the courts and have them prosecuted as criminals. There must be no favoured status awarded to gang members," the prime minister declared.

He said that investments in technology for the police have been reaping results.

"We are able to track them [criminals], interdict them, and have strong evidence on which they are prosecuted. It is a long journey to interdict gangs. You have to develop strong and robust elements. Yes, the country will get frustrated and our society will feel some fatigue because of crime, but I want to give them hope that we are doing it the right way, which is to invest in the capacity of the police. If you look at the police today, and compare it to 10 years ago, it is quite a different Jamaica Constabulary Force," he said.

"The quality of the leadership at the officer level is quite different and the quality of the interaction and policing is quite different. Their equipment and gear and strategies are quite different. We have a long-term [strategy] to build the capacity of the police force to address the level of crime, whilst we use emergency measures to ensure it does not get out of hand," he said.

Holness was in the constituency for the commissioning of a concrete walkway at McDonald Place, where residents previously suffered from dust and mud nuisance.

He said that the pavement, done by Caribbean Cement Company, will allow more entertainment events to be held with less discomfort for patrons.

The project cost approximately $8 million.

He noted that that section of the community, known to residents as Compound, was largely an informal settlement when he first became the Member of Parliament in 1997.

However, the community has been transformed from zinc fences and wooden houses to concrete structures due to the efforts of ambitious residents, whom he congratulated.

BY JASON CROSS Observer staff reporter

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