National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang yesterday said the Government has developed a comprehensive social investment structure which will play a critical role in reducing crime and violence.
According to Dr Chang, the initiative will form part of the Administration's Safer Communities Programme, which is aimed at adequately responding to the challenges associated with the socio-cultural context of crime in Jamaica.
“It is said that crime prevention is a long-term goal, but crime reduction is an immediate need, and I posit that in order to achieve the sustainable crime reduction that we need, we must, as a matter of priority, reconsider and reposition our crime-prevention efforts,” Dr Chang told the House of Representatives as he made his contribution to 2021/22 Sectoral Debate at Gordon House.
“In a society like ours, where the 'informa fi dead' culture is still very pervasive, we must revisit and adapt the Bail Act, for example, to adequately respond to the challenges that are associated with the socio-cultural context of crime in Jamaica,” Chang said.
He argued that having witnesses in protective custody for prolonged periods was another consequence of the current criminal justice system that must be addressed. It was for these reasons, he said, that the Government has developed a comprehensive, “all-of-government structure” for social investment under Plan Secure Jamaica.
The Government first announced Plan Secure Jamaica in 2019, suggesting that tackling crime would not be successful if it remains “narrowly focused on the police getting criminals off the streets”. In other words, crime would be only one element of a national and diverse strategy aimed at addressing all elements “in bringing sustainable peace and security to Jamaica”.
The strategic subjects that fall under the Plan Secure Jamaica policy are: Violence and crime; public order; corruption; community safety; territorial integrity; crisis response and resilience; justice; cyber defence, critical infrastructure protection; and economic security.
“Our stakeholders within the criminal justice system are critical partners to the work of law enforcement. I am aware, and proud of the fact that we have a charter of rights that forms the overarching framework for all legislation. However, we must now give more thought to having robust and relevant legislation that will protect and preserve the rights of citizens, while addressing the nuances of our criminal violence landscape,” he said.
In terms of the modernisation of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Dr Chang said that under Plan Secure Jamaica, while the Government's policy has been to reduce criminal violence, improve public safety, and strengthen the institutional and operational efficiency of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, violent crimes remain the primary focus of the public, and for good reason.
“The loss of life or injury to any Jamaican citizen is a trauma to all Jamaicans, whether domestic, criminal, or otherwise. We will continue to provide the necessary legislative, policy and programme directives, and budget support to bring about sustainable reduction in criminal violence,” he assured.
Chang also recalled the “wise” words of late former Prime Minister Hugh Lawson Shearer in 1967, that the police should “proceed without reservation and without restriction to tackle the problem of violence and bring wrongdoers to justice in whatever way [it] can be done”.
“On that same occasion, former Prime Minister Shearer underscored that 'when it comes to handling crime in this country, I do not expect any policeman, when he tackles a criminal, to recite any beatitude to him... the police cannot tackle a wrongdoer and talk about blessed are the meek',” Chang said.
He argued that, for too long, successive administrations and the people of Jamaica have had to contend with the “deeply entrenched culture” of criminal violence in the society.
“While we must persist with the no-nonsense approach as espoused by Mr Shearer, it is critical that we adopt a holistic, modern and integrated strategy to combating criminal violence,” he argued.
He said the drive towards a sustainable reduction in criminal violence demands an aggressive reorganisation and modernisation of the police force.
“While it is the role of the police to save lives, sustainable reduction of criminal violence must be a whole-of-government, all-of-society approach. We must facilitate a process of behavioural change among our people in order to reduce the pervading culture of violence that underpins much of the criminal activities in our country,” Chang stated.
He noted that Project Rebuild, Overhaul & Construct (Project ROC) was initiated by his ministry to transform all police facilities into professional workspaces that are user-friendly to external clients and the officers.