MONTEGO BAY, St James - In the wake of the spiralling murder rate in St James, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Homer Davis is proposing that the police invite gang leaders for a sit-down as part of efforts to tame the crime monster.
According to police statistics, between January 1 and June 6, 104 people were murdered in St James, which is 26 more homicides when compared with the corresponding period in 2021.
“I am really agonising over how we intercede with the gangs that are really creating havoc in our space. I have a thought process, Commissioner [Assistant Commissioner of Police Clifford Chambers]. I think if we can get the combatants, the leaders of these groups, gangs together and put them in a space and say ‘Listen, tell me now where are you fighting for. Tell me what do you want, what do you need? What can we do to appease you?’ ” Davis, who is also Member of Parliament for St James Southern, suggested.
“My take on it is that the police have information on all the violence producers in the parish. Why don’t we start pulling them together, bring them together in a room and say ‘Listen, you are G6, you are G7 or you are 87. I am serious — what is the problem?’ If you have two children in the home that can’t live together, don’t you pull them together and say ‘Listen, what is the problem?’
“In most instances those who are coming to these violence interruption or interrupting meetings are usually the people who don’t want to get involved in crime or somebody who has probably got a brush with the law and doesn’t want to get back into it.”
Davis underscored that a different approach is needed to cauterise the rampant bloodletting in the parish but was quick to add that the police cannot tame the crime monster by themselves.
“Let me tell you Commissioner, we have a big problem. We have 300 active gangs across Jamaica and to be honest with you, with the best will in the world the police alone can’t manage. Don’t mek we fool ourselves. If we have a police on every corner — which we can’t afford — I doubt if we would be able to manage it,” he argued.
“We have to develop different approaches. Legislation is good but legislation is not the all. We have the anti-gang legislation and, as I have said over and over, if we continue on that same trajectory we are going to choke the justice system. You can imagine 60 members of various gangs before a court with 60 attorneys, with 60 cases?
“All I am saying, Commissioner, I am in sympathy with you guys but the strategy, in my opinion, needs to be revisited. I know you are doing a lot and you have the intelligence base and you have the this...but let me tell you: When two people plan to shoot up a house you don’t know, you can’t know; but what the police do know is where the attacks are coming from, who are the responsible characters.”
Davis was speaking at a function organised by Montego Bay businessman Lachu Ramchandani and other members of the business community to welcome to the St James Police Division, Superintendent Carlos Russell from Trelawny who is deputising for Senior Superintendent Vernon Ellis, who is on leave, and Deputy Superintendent of Police Eron Samuels, in charge of operations, in the resort city of Montego Bay on Saturday.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Clifford Chambers, who is in charge of the Area One Police Division which comprises the parishes of Trelawny, St James, Hanover and Westmoreland, cited that “St James is one the most difficult divisions”.
“Anything you speak about in terms of crime: violence, guns, gangs, drugs — you name it — money laundering, it’s here,” ACP Chambers noted.
Meanwhile, Davis, who has responsibility for coordinating special projects and major development in the OPM West, stressed that “St James is a very unique parish”.
“It is a parish that performs the best in terms of its economy but in terms of crime, it is a challenging place, a very challenging place. The police here in St James tend to enjoy a very good working relationship with us as business people and us as law-abiding citizens,” said Davis, who is a former member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
He, however, called for more support from the citizens as he cringed at the number of guns coming in through the country’s porous borders.
“We need more support from our citizens. Imagine on our highway you stop a vehicle and you recover nine firearms including three M16 [plus] six other weapons. This is the Jamaica we are. If we can have more of that every day or week then we will begin to see the reduction that we are seeing. But I am sure that as the police recover nine we might have 90 coming in tomorrow morning, because we have an open border,” Davis lamented.
He gave his commitment to give whatever support he can to the police.
“My office is open. As I have been saying, I am the conveyor to the prime minister in the Cabinet so if there is a challenge that you are going through and you need my help, call me. I have to do my part as a Jamaican, as a leader, and as a former member of this great institution, the Jamaica Constabulary Force,” said Davis.