Editorial: Being nosey may save lives
Jamaicans have just about had enough of violent crime. And just when we thought the criminals had reached the zenith of brutality, another heinous event, like the shooting death of a heavily pregnant woman, comes to the fore.
There is, however, something to be said about citizen cooperation in helping to combat crime. Not that we needed statistics to drive home the point, but the evidential confirmation provided by head of Area Two, Senior Superintendent of Police Glenford Hudson, is that where there is substantial citizen cooperation with the police, crime goes down. This is a partnership that can work, the senior crime fighter is affirming.
But the idea of citizens helping to fight crime in their community is not new. We think back to the introduction of neighbourhood watch groups in many communities across the island in which each neighbour was the other's keeper, always on the alert to assess strangers and suspicious activities, being the eyes and ears of the police. Some of these groups have gone dormant and the time seems right to revive them. In fact, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of citizen's arrests being made in communities where a crime was deemed to have been committed.
How, we ask, could a car-stealing ring operate in a St Catherine community without anyone noticing that vehicles were being taken to a remote area and scrapped? How could the lottery scam thrive and spread to so many communities without anyone noticing?
FEWER PERSONS TRUST POLICE
What is different today is that fewer persons trust the police. Persons have often been heard expressing fear that the information they pass to the police will somehow get back to the criminals with deadly consequences for informers. Even when the information can be passed on anonymously, persons are reluctant to tell what they know for fear of reprisal.
Those who may have dismissed the recent appeal by the police commissioner to be nosey and find out what is happening in their neighbourhoods, to help combat crime, may want to give some consideration to the idea. Persons living in Clarendon must have felt a tinge of embarrassment to hear the commissioner declare at their recent town-hall meeting that their parish was one of the most dangerous in all of Jamaica.
Was Dr Williams convincing enough for citizens to decide that they will no longer see no evil and hear no evil? Will we see a new era of cooperation in our communities where crime is threatening everyone's existence?
Intelligence is what helps the police fight crime, and information-gathering skills are critical to crime fighting. The early warning signs of impending trouble can be seen in a community. This is what the commissioner wants people to pay attention to: couples in disputes; families in conflict over land; drug dealing; and gun possession. When these incidents are reported, the right intervention can be made.
Yet for a police force to be truly successful in protecting the citizenry, it needs strong leaders with imagination, workable strategies and modern tools and methods to fight crime. So even though information gathering is critical, the Jamaica Constabulary Force also needs 21st-century technology, a better working environment, and greater mobility.