Editorial | Priorities for policing in Jamaica
The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has many responsibilities, but most of them fall into three categories:
1. Public reassurance and crime prevention, which includes maintaining a visible public presence in order to deter crime, reassure the public and win the support of the community.
2. Response policing, which includes auctioning calls for help and reports of crimes and emergencies.
3. Dealing with major crimes, including homicide, corruption, trafficking, cybercrime and fraud.
As the JCF is very hard-pressed to deal with the tasks in the second and third categories, it is usually the first commitment that suffers. The tasks in categories two and three are always more urgent, but it is the first commitment that can do most to build confidence and trust, reduce the level of neighbourhood and domestic violence, and make it harder for gangs to operate and crime to flourish. So one of the reasons why the public does not always support the police is that the priorities of the police service do not always reflect the concerns of the public.
To win the trust of the public, the JCF has to focus on two strategic priorities. One is to reassure the public; the other is to create a safe environment that will allow businesses to develop and create real jobs, as that is the only way to give people economic security. This means that the JCF has to focus on the crimes that create the most fear and cripple the economy.
The fear is the result of intimidation and violence. Most of this is caused by about 0.1 per cent of the population; a small number of violent gangs, and families torn by domestic oppression and abuse. Gang violence is usually motivated by status, power, reprisal and money, feuds and turf wars, and fights to control neighbourhoods and criminal activities such as scamming and extortion. Family violence is associated with broken families, absentee parents and neglected children, low self-esteem and coercive behaviour, resulting in both physical and sexual abuse.
Both gang-related and domestic violence are concentrated in the unstructured communities, most of which have bad housing, limited access to amenities, poor-performing schools, and few legitimate employment opportunities - a combination of squalor, chaos and other social problems that help to perpetuate the cycles of violence.
The police can deal with the gangs, given the necessary support, but they cannot solve the social problems unaided. They can lead the process, but they need the support of other government agencies, the private sector, churches and voluntary organisations to normalise and reintegrate the damaged communities.
With regard to economic crimes, these are motivated primarily by profit, but often involve intimidation and violence to protect criminal enterprises. They typically involve powerful, well-connected criminals and networks of corruption that collude in the misappropriation of funds in procurement, contracting and construction, trafficking, fraud, money-laundering and tax evasion. The key to taking down these organised crime networks is to focus on their facilitators; the corrupt public officials, business people and lawyers that assist them to launder funds and conceal the source of their assets.
This is where the police and the director of public prosecutions need to take a more aggressive approach. Italy has shown the way; they are breaking the power of the Mafia by seizing the assets of both the criminals and their facilitators. The Italian state has taken nearly US$50 billion in assets away from the Mafia, and arrested many of the corrupt lawyers, judges and politicians that protected the Mafia dons and laundered their funds. With a similarly resolute approach here, we could finally break the power of organised crime in Jamaica and allow legitimate businesses to flourish.