MONTEGO BAY, St James - In the wake of the upward spiral of murders across western Jamaica, John Morris, first vice-president of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Past Members Association, Area One, is making an impassioned plea to the two major political parties to join forces in a bid to cauterise the spiralling murder rate in the region.
The ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government reaped success in curbing murders after the state of public emergency (SOE) was imposed in seven police divisions across five parishes, including St James, Hanover and Westmoreland on November 14, last year. But the Government was dealt a severe blow when the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) refused to vote for an extension of the enhanced security measure in the Upper House, insisting that it is protecting the rights of the citizens from abuse by the security forces.
The Government failed to get the single Opposition vote needed for a two-thirds majority in the Upper House that would have extended the SOE until February 10, 2022.
“From the churches, the political leaders, everybody is going to have to speak with one voice in this crime thing. We have to take this off the political list and come together as one people to manage this thing. It is the common enemy of everybody. Simple!” declared Morris, a former superintendent of police.
“I think it has reached the stage where both political parties will have to speak with one voice against crime in this country,” he stressed.
Police data show that up to January 23, St James recorded 21 murders, which was three more than the 18 for the same period last year; Westmoreland's murder tally stood at 12, which was 10 or 500 per cent over the similar period last year, while Trelawny reported a triple murder which is two more than the one murder reported over the corresponding period in 2021.
Following the triple murder in her constituency last week, Member of Parliament for Trelawny Northern Tova Hamilton also called for “one voice” to address crime.
“Policing in these times it's so difficult as the security forces are constrained in how they execute their duties but criminals are unrestricted and are seemingly protected by law,” the MP, who is an attorney, stated.
“As a country, we need to have one voice as it relates to crime. It is the disparity in how criminals are treated when brought before the court that creates loopholes and strengthens their resolve to further commit criminal activities. We need to once and for all get serious about this spiralling issue.”
Meanwhile, Morris, who was in charge of operations in the JCF's Area One and Area Two headquarters at different intervals, also suggested that educated young people should pool ideas and come up with solutions to tackle the worrying crime situation.
“We have quite a number of young people, bright people who have benefitted from education in this country, who can form some sort of plan and put out some ideas how we can manage the crime. They can't benefit educationally and financially and just sit on it. Something has to happen. At the end of the day you have no country in the world where you have the security forces fighting crime by themselves,” he charged.
He added that prior to retiring from the Jamaica Constabulary Force in 2017, one of the tools that he had among his crime-fighting toolkit was “monitoring the communities”. Morris was the crime officer during the reign of terror by the infamous Stone Crusher gang.
“My take on managing crime rests with monitoring the communities. That is what I practised over the years. Because the communities must be your eyes and ears, and so a special effort will have to be made to get the entire country wrapped around the management of crime. We don't have sufficient police to be in every crevice and corner. We certainly don't have that, so therefore, the country, the people, the decent law-abiding citizens must come on board to fight crime. That is my view,” he contended.
“There has to be some relationship that is established between law enforcement and the communities. And the general public must realise that the criminals are taking lives and the only way we can stop that is to pass on the intelligence to the police.”
He suggested that individuals who are reluctant to give lawmen information because of distrust should seek alternative sources such as justices of the peace and members of the church, who they trust, to convey information to senior cops.
“We have the churches, we have the justices of the peace, all those persons that people can pass on information to, people they have confidence in.
“When you see a man walk in a community and fire his gun and kill somebody and walk away without fearing that information will reach the police, something must be wrong with that. I would encourage the law-abiding citizens, if it's even for your own self-preservation, you have to find a way to communicate what is happening in your community.”
Speaking to reporters at the scene of the triple murder in Bounty Hall, Trelawny last week, deputy commissioner of police (DCP) in charge of crime, Fitz Bailey, expressed concern over the increase in violence not only in western Jamaica, but across the 19 police divisions.
“There is a concern about crime across Jamaica. Whilst we see an uptick in Area One, we are concerned about the level of violence that we are seeing across Jamaica and the type of violence that we are experiencing is not normal. And I think that when we have these extraordinary situations there is a requirement for an extraordinary response,” DCP Bailey argued.
According to data from the JCF, up to January 23, some 112 people have been murdered across the island—a 15.5 percentage increase over the corresponding period in 2021.
There were 1,463 homicides recorded across the island last year, which is 132 or almost 10 per cent above the murder toll for 2020.