Editorial: Have police given up the streets?
Jamaica's police force got more than a bloody nose this year after failing to contain murders, which have been on the retreat for the five prior years.
The commissioner of police, Dr Carl Williams, and the minister of national security, Peter Bunting, will, of course, be quick to remind the public that the majority of major crimes have been on a downward trajectory, including rape. But despite Dr Williams' exhortation not to count bodies, a country that once hovered close to 1,700 murders a year will be fearful of returning to those treacherous depths.
Which is why we believe the majority of the Jamaican people find little succour in the commissioner's tough talk about hunting down killers and bringing them to justice. Nor are we confident that Mr Bunting's prayerful appeals have reached the ears of God.
With the new year five days away, Mr Bunting and Dr Williams need to rekindle the faith that they are the right men for the job. Public confidence is as crucial a weapon in the fight against crime as are batons, bullets, guns and armoured carriers.
It is important that the constabulary restrategise how it plans to arrest galloping crime in rural police divisions which have apparently become a haven for migratory criminals who have taken flight from their metropolitan nests. Appeals to citizens to report unfamiliar residents can't be the be-all and end-all of police tactics.
If law enforcers were concerned about their ability to track and capture crooks in Jamaica's tenuous road network, their job will become harder with the opening of new frontiers in January and February.
The expansion effected by the North-South Highway will cut travel times between Kingston and Mammee Bay to 45 minutes, something criminals will have factored in for long-haul interparish transportation of guns, drugs and other contraband, as well as for quick escape routes from scenes of crime. The police will have to patrol both the new and traditional routes with rigour if the Get the Guns initiative is to have further success.
And our focus on the highways brings us to another important observation - the police's apparent surrender of thoroughfares to road hogs and rampant breaches of the traffic laws.
Every few years, a new traffic police chief rides into town with the bravado of a sheriff in a western movie, with a nasty snarl and a mouth full of chew stick. He threatens to lay down the law and impose zero tolerance on all offences. There is a media buzz to show he's tough. And in a few weeks, things descend into a funk.
And thus Senior Superintendent of Police Calvin Allen has been little different from his predecessor, Radcliffe Lewis - but without the prime-time sound bites.
Most of Jamaica's roads, particularly in urban areas, are a free-for-all, where legal buses and taxis bore and race and pick up and drop off passengers at will. The illegals, or 'robots', make a mockery of the law and undermine those who invest their time and money by following procedure, only to be outjostled and outprofited in plain sight of the police - jeopardising the very state-owned bus service. Molynes Road, Red Hills Road, Half-Way Tree and downtown Kingston are centres of anarchy.
If Dr Williams' men have abandoned the streets to rogues and badmen, they could at least tell us.