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Growth council wants FBI-type agency for Jamaica to take profit out of crime

Published:Friday | October 21, 2016 | 10:00 AMSteven Jackson
Michael Lee Chin, chairman of the Economic Growth Council, speaks at a press conference on August 17 at Jamaica House.

The Economic Growth Council (EGC) chaired by Michael Lee-Chin wants the Jamaican Government to create an agency similar to the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in a bid to remove the profit from crime.

The proposal falls within the citizen security and safety component of the EGC's '5 in 4' plan to take Jamaica to five per cent economic growth. More space was dedicated to the crime-fighting proposals in the EGC's report issued in September - they got 10 times more length than macro-economic stability, for example.

The EGC recommends separating the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), and establish it with its own budget and powers of arrest and prosecution.

"[This would] form the nucleus of a new national law-enforcement agency, similar to the FBI in the United States, with strong operational autonomy," stated the report.

Criminals are motivated by money and that removal of profit from crime would result in reducing or dismantling criminal networks, the council posited.

"Most successful career criminals are adaptive, flexible, and ready to switch into more lucrative forms of crime as they emerge. The only way that these criminal organisations can be degraded or permanently dismantled is by 'taking the profit from crime'," added the EGC.

Last month, US Ambassador to Jamaica Luis G. Moreno announced that the embassy in Kingston would house an FBI office. It would result in better coordination with local officers and lead to more extraditions, he said. The US wants to tamp down on lotto fraud, amid reports that up to US$1 billion had been scammed from Americans.

The EGC wants substantive reform of the Jamaica Constabulary Force Act; an increase in the police force by some 3,000 members to its full capacity of 14,000; a merger of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority and the Police Service Commission; a permanent Mobile Reserve for western Jamaica; body cameras for all police officers on high-risk patrols; new remand centres for persons awaiting bail; and relocation of the JCF headquarters to a modern fully owned facility.

The $500 million of annual rental expenditure paid by the JCF should be diverted towards "financing the construction of dedicated, purpose-built, buildings and/or stations equipped with appropriate technology," the EGC said.

Overall, the EGC identified 12 factors which contribute to low growth. These include crime and violence, corruption, access to financing, taxation/tax compliance cost, poor human capital and entrepreneurship, difficult doing business environment/loss of competitiveness, high cost of energy, political tribalism, competition from the informal sector, poor capital allocation of our financial assets and under-utilisation of productive capacity, macroeconomic instability, and inefficient Government bureaucracy.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com