Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Glenn Tucker | Police must get high-tech

Published:Friday | July 8, 2016 | 12:00 AMGlenn Tucker

National Security Minister Robert Montague is mad. Like the rest of us, he is worried about the apparent impunity with which lives of Jamaicans are being snuffed out.

Minister Montague announced that there is to be a significant increase in resources devoted to stemming the murders. I gather western Jamaica is to be saturated with joint patrols in an effort to reduce crime. This is comforting, but he must be aware that this can only be a temporary response to the problem.

There has been a lot of tough talk about crime in this country for decades. Forty years ago, a Gun Court was set up. At that time, PM Manley said it was "painted red because it was dread". Various squads were formed with terrifying names like ACID. But the crime rate just kept going up.

It seems that there is one fundamental flaw in the way we are proceeding. And it is not limited to the crime problem.

Those of us who are interested in criminology and crime stories may be familiar with the C.S.I., Law and Order, and Snapped television series. The first two are fictional. But they all have certain things in common. They rely heavily on community support and modern technology.




In the area of community support, we face a major problem: the people will not assist the police in their investigations. Many cite extortion and corruption as reasons not to trust the police. Some speak of the frequent killing of witnesses as reason why it would be foolhardy to squeal. Then there is the torturous, limping justice system.

In the absence of the traditional forms of assistance, the police need to focus and research the latest technology available to the force for crime fighting. In this regard, I think the criminals are ahead of them. A dozen Steve McGregors and the entire JDF are unlikely to be effective in western Jamaica unless comparable technology is acquired by the force. Here are others that are available to the police:

1. General Motors has created an in-vehicle safety system. Police can ask the operator to transmit a signal to a vehicle of interest. This will restrict the fuel reserves and slow it down to about 5mph.

2. A gunshot sensor system that picks up sound waves of a muzzle blast. GPS receivers in the system narrow down the exact coordinates of the location and forward it to the nearest 119 centres.

3. Brain fingerprinting. The subject is fitted with a headband and shown pictures on a computer screen. The headband measures cognitive brain responses to the stimuli he watches on the screen. An EEG picks up distinct responses to words, sounds, or images that are related to the crime. This is a system that has been used to obtain guilty pleas from criminals who had refuted allegations of knowledge about their crimes.

4. Automated licence plate cameras that take pictures of licence plates from a distance and run against a database of stolen vehicles.

5. An automated system that compares features on the shoe soles of suspects with those of the shoe prints left behind at crime scenes. Incidentally, a UK act gives this forensic evidence the same legal validity as DNA and fingerprints.

6. Cameras offer irrefutable evidence of an event. Departments can also use footage to train and practise crisis scenarios.

The challenge of restoring our law-enforcement unit to a place where its members have the trust and respect of the public is not going to be overcome next week - or next year. It is going to take years of hard work, using inter-agency collaboration.

The successful criminals are highly intelligent, tech-savvy individuals. And they don't get caught. There is an abundance of evidence that they are well ahead of the Jamaican police technologically. Talking tough, looking gruff, and walking around with long guns is not going to accomplish much.

- Glenn Tucker is an educator and sociologist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and glenntucker2011@gmail.com.