Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Garth Rattray | Solid anti-crime strategy

Published:Monday | November 6, 2017 | 12:00 AM

On Thursday, November 2, 2017 I was invited to a Ministry of National Security function, where several important plans were unveiled. Some are not ready for public disclosure, but the Five-Pillar Crime Strategy was highlighted in a brochure that was handed out.

Crime has been running rampant throughout society, so much so that the urge to panic is overwhelming. People are so fed up that there are calls for a police-state-like solution, where the security forces indefinitely blanket volatile communities across the island.

Some want the Zones Of Special Operations (ZOSOs) concurrently in every nook and cranny. People want harsher sentencing and the reinstatement of the death penalty to deter criminal activities. Others call for a suspension of some of our rights until we become acculturated to the discipline and order necessary for peace and safety of all citizens.

The proliferation of private security companies and applications for licensed firearms are excellent barometers of the fear level throughout society. People are so desperate and fearful that some neighbourhoods are willing to descend to the level of the vicious criminals and are determined to take the law into their own hands. They will lynch anyone apprehended under suspicion of committing a crime. Some citizens have become reclusive, while others focus their thoughts on migrating. Family and friends fret and constantly make cellular phone calls to check on the well-being of loved ones who are on the streets. We are indeed living in sad times; this is untenable.

 

Multifaceted crime plan

 

There is no quick fix to our situation, and no single individual or sole entity can reduce crime. It will take the concerted effort of various government bodies, business and religious leaders, voluntarism and the cooperation, vigilance and intervention of most citizens. If we want peace and security, we the people will have to participate by doing our part, no matter how small. Any organised attempt at quelling crime will have to be multifaceted; the Five-Pillar Crime Strategy is such a plan.

Essentially, the first pillar involves effective policing. It seeks to "restore trust and confidence" in the police. The aim is to achieve an atmosphere of order throughout society. This pillar is built on community-based policing, respect for the rights of citizens and the recruitment of lay magistrates and community anti-crime organisations. This pillar aims to seek out the youth to steer them clear of nefarious activities and groups. Work will be done in conjunction with the Citizen Security and Justice Programme, HEART Trust/NTA and NYS. Under this pillar also falls the welfare of our security force personnel.

The second pillar will seek to ensure swift and sure justice. The aim is to improve court management, reduce delays and restructure the bail system to keep dangerous criminals from committing murder while out on bail. Swift and sure justice reduces lag time for trials, galvanises the security forces and avoids re-victimizing the victims and/or their families/relatives.

The third pillar attacks crime through social development. This is a long-term strategy

that deals with the root causes of crime - poverty, poor parenting, poor education, lack of conflict resolution (a whopping 37 per cent of our murders are because of domestic violence) and hostile communities. It is expected that, over time, little by little, the psyche of the nation will change into a "kinder and gentler" people.

The fourth and fifth pillars are aimed at "situational crime prevention". Unplanned (squatter, informal settlement) communities lack proper layout, infrastructure, amenities and security. They inevitably develop their own mores that are not necessarily akin to the rest of society. Patrolling and law enforcement is difficult because of the narrow pathways and high zinc fences. There are plans to prevent the formation of new informal settlements and upgrade the existing ones.

And, finally, the anti-crime effort is focusing on the "rehabilitation and redemption" of those convicted of crimes, both here and abroad. The security minister is making every effort to prevent prisons from being 'crime universities', where inmates end up being schooled by hardened criminals and have no skills when they are released back into society. They contribute to the high rate of recidivism.

I am satisfied that the Ministry of National Security is on the correct path. All that's needed now is the cooperation and participation of the citizenry.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com