Police commissioner dodges death penalty debate
ANDERSON...there are debates around the death penalty as to whether it is a deterrent or not, but it is not a debate I want to particularly join.

COMMISSIONER of Police Major General Antony Anderson was non-committal on Tuesday during his monthly press conference on whether the death penalty, coupled with the work of the police to secure convictions, could assist in driving down violent crimes.

The issue of the death penalty became a major topic in public discourse once again in late June, when the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) indicated that it will be seeking the death penalty for 23-year-old Rushane Barnett who is suspected of killing 31-year-old Kimesha Wright and her four children in Clarendon on June 21. Barnett is accused of slashing the throats of Wright; her daughters: 15-year-old Kimanda Smith, 10-year-old Shara-Lee Smith, five-year-old Rafaella Smith; and her 23-month-old son, Kishawn Henry.

Responding to a question from the Jamaica Observer, Commissioner Anderson said that, while some people may be very deserving of the death penalty, he preferred to stay out of the debate.

"One of the things that drives down violent crime is that the people who perpetrate it are not able to continue to perpetrate it, and long sentences work. There are debates around the death penalty as to whether it is a deterrent or not, but it is not a debate I want to particularly join.

"The central issue, whether it is the death penalty – and perhaps there are some people who are very deserving of it – or it is long sentences, the society must be protected from the people who wish to do harm to people and people who have demonstrated by their previous actions that they are willing to do harm," Anderson said.

Retired Senior Superintendent of Police Renato Adams, in responding to questions from the Observer on the death penalty, did not skirt the issue and boldly gave support for that form of punishment.

Adams is of the belief that, "Everybody can't just get up every day and kill, kill, kill and don't get some form of punishment for what they have done. I see it as a source of punishment for an individual's heinous and intentional action."

In the meantime, Commissioner Anderson said that since the last press briefing in June the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) managed to reduce murders by 4.4 per cent. However, from January 1 up to June 26 this year, the island recorded 716 murders which represents nine more than the same period last year. Anderson pointed out that 74 per cent of those murders were attributed to gang conflicts, while interpersonal conflict led to 14 per cent and six per cent occurred in the furtherance of criminal acts. Mob killings accounted for one per cent and five per cent are still undetermined. Compared to the same period in 2021, rape declined by 13 per cent.

Anderson said the JCF was anticipated that more progress would have been made in reducing murders and shootings, but was thrown off course by gang conflict in St Catherine last month as well as the quintuple murders in Clarendon on June 21.

The commissioner revealed that cops achieved the biggest firearm seizure, 392, in the first six months of a year within the past five years.

"This is an increase of seven per cent over the first half of 2021 and represents the largest haul of weapons in the first half of each of the last five years. When we examine the weapons used, there has been a 60 per cent increase in the seizure of high-powered rifles, seven per cent in pistol seizures, and 11 per cent increase in shotguns seized."

Anderson expressed concern that children have been increasingly involved in lottery scamming and implored parents, guardians, and teachers to be vigilant and report suspicion of these activities to the police. He pointed out that authorities in collaboration with overseas partners continue to target lottery scammers and the proceeds of lottery scamming.

"Later this week, five persons will be extradited to the United States of America for lottery scamming-related offences and other serious crimes. Just over a week ago several persons were taken into custody for breaches following a major operations led by the lottery scamming task force in St Ann. Among those taken in custody was a 16-year-old, and five high-end motor vehicles were seized."

Jason Cross

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