Mon | Aug 20, 2018

Report crime on constituency basis

Published:Sunday | February 22, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Her long, gritty fight to maintain what was perceived as the illegal occupation of a parliamentary seat notwithstanding, Sharon Hay-Webster made at least one worthy contribution during her time in the House. In June 2010, in the aftermath of the security operation in Tivoli Gardens, she called for a parliamentary debate on crime and crime fighting in Jamaica.

That debate wasn't held, or at least not in the fashion we had hoped it would have been - focused not on bits on legislation and the macro-strategies of the Government, but homed in on the problem in constituencies and the anti-crime efforts of MPs.

Such a debate, as well as an overhaul of the geographical basis on which the police report crime statistics, would be timely, against the backdrop of the ongoing commission of enquiry into the conduct of the Tivoli operation, which was for the purpose of arresting Christopher Coke, the gang leader and community overlord, for extradition to the United States. In the event, one soldier and at least 76 civilians died, some of them, it is claimed, extrajudicially killed by the security forces.

But there is a significant context to the Tivoli violence, a community known for its loyalty to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and situated in a constituency where the JLP has long enjoyed political hegemony. It is what Jamaicans call a garrison community, zones of political exclusion where politics and criminality intersect and coexist. Indeed, while Tivoli Gardens, with Coke as criminal/political enforcer, was the most notorious, they were not the only ones.


Garrisons beyond Tivoli


In that respect, we are grateful to former Prime Minister Bruce Golding for his attempt, during his evidence at the enquiry, to broaden the discussion to garrisons beyond Tivoli Gardens, as well as to Lord Anthony Gifford, representing the public

defender, for tendering into evidence past reports on garrisons and crime in Jamaica. For the fact is, part of the solution to the crisis of crime, criminality and corruption is the 'de-garrisonisation' of Jamaica and, more specifically, breaking the link between crime and politics.

Indeed, it is widely felt in Jamaica, and we believe it to be the case, that there are few, and more likely no, parliamentary constituencies where the MP is unaware of the criminal actors, or can be privy to that information if he or she wishes to be. In fact, many personalities on the periphery, or closer, of crime are at the centre of constituency political organisations.

Against this backdrop, we believe that the police should disaggregate crime statistics at the level of constituencies. This approach would have two potentially significant benefits: It would place pressure on MPs to work with the police to identify and apprehend criminals, as well as promote anti-crime initiatives. Second, it would provide a measure by which to reward MPs who do well against crime.

A dozen years ago, the Clarke Committee report on how to pay parliamentarians proposed to link their salaries to inflation and cap them at the average inflation of Jamaica's major trading

partners. But they would also receive incentives if they achieved other community deliverables. Anti-crime projects and the

actual lowering of crime should be among them.