Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Linton P. Gordon | Facing down crime

Published:Wednesday | February 8, 2017 | 2:00 AM

The crime situation facing Jamaica is now a threat to the very fabric of the society. Criminals are running wild throughout the country and are causing law-abiding citizens to cower in fear behind grilles and doors.

Shops and bars, especially in rural villages, are now shut tight from early evening instead of opening late. Attendance at churches has declined, as members stay away in fear of travelling at night. Students, especially girls, travel our streets to and from schools and colleges with the fear that they might be kidnapped, raped or murdered.

Some persons have taken the opportunity to demand the resignation of National Security Minister Robert Montague. However, this is a short-sighted approach, or perhaps panic or political opportunism.

Mr Montague has been in charge of the national security ministry for just one year. The criminal activities we are seeing now did not come about over the past year. They are a result of a number of factors, some of which have been contributed by politicians on both sides of the fence. St James, in particular, did not become a crime-infested parish overnight. This parish saw the development of a number of informal/squatter settlements over the past 15-20 years.

SQUATTING DANGER

Many of us warned the country of the danger that squatter settlements pose to the security of Jamaica. However, politicians have ignored the warnings and gone ahead to encourage the growth and development of these squatter settlements, because they could manage and control the citizens in them, thereby ensuring a sold bloc of votes for their party.

The squatter settlements throughout Jamaica are politically aligned. They depend on politicians to protect and defend them. What has now happened in St James is that scammers have emerged from these squatter settlements and are managing and controlling a level of wealth that politicians cannot compete with. So scammers have now become the rulers of these informal settlements.

We should, therefore, appreciate that the politicians have lost control of the informal settlements in Montego Bay. The authority and influence of the politicians are no more the dominant source of control. Scammers now control these communities and they are proceeding to enforce their control in these neighbourhoods and throughout Jamaica.

fast and furious

The emergence of scammers as controllers of the means of violence has been fast and furious. It has taken the under-resourced Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) by surprise. The scammers have more resources than the police force. They are technologically savvy and their wealth is being used to secure support from a wide cross section of society, including support from the police and prison warders.

All these factors did not emerge over the past year, and therefore it cannot be that we blame the current minister and demand his resignation. The JCF has lacked resources over the years. This is not anything new, and what we should be demanding is that the Government move quickly to increase the numbers and the resources to the constabulary.

We should never underestimate the difficult environment in which members of the police force are now operating. They face a multiplicity of challenges, and there is no doubt that some members are demoralised.

Let us support the police force in its effort to confront and defeat the warrior gunmen who are determine to cause havoc on law-abiding citizens in Jamaica, land we love.

Let us show a united front rather than make demands that will not take us anywhere with our efforts to make the country a safer place for us to live and work in.

- Linton P. Gordon is an attorney-at-law.

Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and lpgordon@cwjamaica.com.