Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Patria-Kaye Aarons: How about we catch criminals before we hang them?

Published:Tuesday | May 3, 2016 | 5:00 AM

Two incidents of escape in the last two weeks have left me completely bewildered.

US Marines, reach out to our law-enforcement officials. They tell us, "There's a suspected drug boat en route to Jamaica." They tell us what it looks like, exactly where to find it, and even donated to us some fancy, fast sea-patrol vessels so that the criminals don't outrun us.

They do all of that, and we don't hold and charge anybody from that drug boat. JDF Infantry and JDF Air Wing and Coastguard and Narcotics Police all got a heads-up; and all gave chase, and we don't manage to catch a single person? Well, nobody that we think was on the boat. We hold the wrong four men and let them go?

Absolutely, I applaud the team for the confiscation of the largest illegal drug haul to date, but we have now potentially created an even bigger problem. The mastermind who loses J$1 billion worth of cocaine isn't just going to say, "Better luck next time." He's angry. Desperate to recuperate the profits he has lost. It isn't far-fetched to assume that in his ruthless pursuits to make back the money he lost, heads will roll - literally. This isn't the end of his crime story, and won't be until or unless he is caught.

Then there's Ninja Timmy, the St James man who reportedly confessed to killing his three-year-old daughter. In Spider-man-like nimbleness, he leaps out of a glass window at the Barnett Street Police Station, two floors up. While handcuffed, just like in the movies, his fall is cushioned by another human being, and he escapes the clutches of not only the three onlooking police personnel in the tiny interrogation room, but also those who ran after him when he touched ground.

How did these men get away?

It's a question that must be answered, not just in these two instances, but in all cases where crime goes unsolved.

In outrage at the existing crime levels, a tough-talking minister of national security, Robert Montague, has vowed to look at the possibility of reintroducing hanging as a form of punishment in Jamaica. Mr Minister, take Ernie Smith's advice: "No mek no sense yu run before yu foot touch the ground." Might I suggest that we are putting the cart before the horse? To invest already limited resources into research on reintroducing hanging is at the peril of research into more effective crime-solving tools.

How about we channel those same minds and resources into fixing 119? Before we start thinking about administering punishment, let's find a way to collect reports about those we want to punish. A way that works.

Only last week, a woman was brutally beaten within inches of her life in Negril. And as the incident unfolded on the side of the street, not three minutes away from the police station, calls to 119 by scared and concerned onlookers kept hanging up. No law official could be contacted to come to the woman's rescue. How about we fix that first?

Too often we aren't closing the loop. Many times we hear of massive ammunition finds and major drug busts with zero arrests. How many of the animals that have committed acts of rape, or child molestation, are actually found, and arrested and brought before the courts? How many suspected lottery scammers have actually been arrested and charged? (These questions I will be asking formally of the police Corporate Communications Network.)

I'm not sure how drastically things have changed, but from the last published statistics, the proportion of unsolved crime was downright scary.

Absolutely, there are criminals who carry out acts that should be punishable by death. But many of those criminals are today walking around - free men. Free to enjoy the pleasures of life and free to commit more crimes when, and how, they see fit. And they do so with the confidence of invincibility; only because the past has proven that catching the bad guy has not been our strong point.

We have far too many issues to address before we get to the punishment part. To focus on the punishment before we improve our catching of criminals, would, in and of itself, be an injustice.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.