Sat | Apr 29, 2017

Choose security over liberty

Published:Sunday | July 19, 2015 | 7:00 AM

Crime is so pervasive in Jamaica that the society is now numb to the reports of another murder. Jamaicans have gone on to rationalise murder to the point where we hear that we cannot put a police officer in every bedroom to stop a domestic killing; that the killers know each other and it is reprisal killing; or that the lotto scam is the source. These are but some of the most frequent justifications raised.

This has led to the need to shock the society into action. Yes, we need to shock uptown, downtown and all around town, and country. All of us need to learn that we are going to be inconvenienced in this fight to reduce murders.

This new approach to crime fighting should include the following: Curfew and search geographic zones without notice. Search every vehicle, every residence and every resident. Get the unlicensed guns from uptown, and the ammunition and drugs all across the country. Take persons into custody and secure convictions. Penalties must be draconian.

Have the laws reflect a minimum sentence, not a mandatory sentence. Let the sentence be inclusive of hard physical labour for man, woman and youth offender. Let them break rocks, and work on national construction projects, such as a new prison. Repair infrastructure under the watchful eyes of the Jamaica Defence Force and Jamaica Constabulary Force combined.

Every able-bodied policeman and woman should be on the road, in the village and on patrol. Use civilians in the police stations and the commissioner's headquarters. Why have a sworn officer manning the entrance of the commissioner's office?

Colour code licence plates

There has long been the proposal to colour-code licence plates according to parish. This is an idea that I endorse. It would lead to providing the probable cause to check a vehicle straying far from its home parish. To make this more effective against the criminals, have a law-enforcement vehicle with a lift and portable roadblock. Employ this so every vehicle must be stopped and be subject to search of the vehicle and ALL the passengers, whether in private car or public transport.

The judiciary needs to get on board in this fight against crime in Jamaica. We cannot have judges doing with frequency what was done in the case of 24-year-old George Thompson of Lilliput, St James. He was convicted for the lotto scam and sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence. That cannot be punishment or deterrent for such criminal activity.

Since the creation of the task force in 2012, there have been 700 arrests and a 90 per cent conviction rate. They have fleeced persons of more than US$300 million. Contrast this sentence with the case of Sanjay Williams, a 25-year-old Jamaican who was convicted for lotto scamming on May 7, 2015 in the USA. At the time of writing, he has not yet been sentenced, but faces up to 40 years in prison.

use 'broken window theory'

Punishment must be harsh and act as a deterrent to the wave of criminal activity that leads to a lot of related murders. Earlier this week, a 58-year-old man was held by a young sweet potato farmer for stealing his recently sprayed immature crop. Praedial larceny is a J$6-billion-a-year scourge on the country. It must be reduced. Apply the 'broken window theory' to crime fighting. Do not ignore small crimes; they lead to big ones. If you do not believe that harsh, strong measures work, look at the significant reduction in crime after the events of May 24, 2010. Overall crime fell precipitously.

If the judiciary continues to practise the primacy of social intervention rather than conviction and sentencing, the society may move to take their own actions. There is fear across the land, and when you hear that 10 police stations in Portland only have 13 vehicles to service the whole parish, it may be time to understand that self-preservation becomes the first rule of man.

The Government cannot protect us anymore, and the commissioner of police can talk about not counting bodies, but it is a matter of one being killed today and meeting one's Maker tomorrow. More than platitudes and intemperate choice of language is required, not requested, from the law-enforcement community and the inept minister of national security.

When we are told that there are now approximately 230 gangs, moving up from 200, then it leads to the query, why are these gangs not being targeted more efficiently and effectively for their degradation and destruction?

We live in a country that lies in a region with a history of citizens taking matters into their own hands. Cuba, Dominican Republic under Trujillo, Costa Rico, Guatemala and Honduras. We may be closer than one is led to believe.

It would be best to include the resumption of the death penalty, but that would be an exercise in futility. What, having a poor inner-city youth being hanged? Strange, he may not have reservations about brutally killing 40 children and multiple women and of confronting the State by brutally taking the life of Constable Crystal Thomas. One youth is responsible for four murders all at one time in Westmoreland.

Time come. Is this the 2030 vision? Trade some civil liberties for security of the person.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.