Tue | Feb 20, 2018

Editorial | In a State of Anarchy | Tackle organised crime head-on

Published:Monday | January 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM

There are different kinds of crime in Jamaica, so different strategies are required. There are economic crimes, focused on profit, such as scamming, trafficking in narcotics, weapons and counterfeit goods, misinvoicing, fraud, misappropriation of funds, and corruption. Then there is wounding and murder, often motivated by jealousy, status, power and money, or because people are retaliating against threats or injuries caused by others.

The top priority for most Jamaicans is to reduce the number of murders, but several different approaches are needed here, too. About 20-25 per cent of Jamaica's murders involve family feuds, domestic violence and abuse, while 75-80 per cent are related to gang feuds, the killing of rivals, and fights to dominate particular neighbourhoods or to control criminal enterprises. Of course, there is some overlap between these two categories.

Reducing the level of domestic violence involves education, intervention and mediation. This is where schools and churches can play an important role. Teachers can be trained to detect the signs that a child is being abused, for example, and pastors can be involved in interventions and conflict resolution.

 

Different approach

 

Reducing the level of violence in struggles to control criminal enterprises or territory requires a different approach, with better police intelligence, targeted operations, steps to reduce the flow of weapons into Jamaica, and social intervention to steer young people away from crime and disrupt the process of gang recruitment.

The police and army must lead on the first three points, but they need the support of other agencies on the last item.

In order to permanently reduce violence in Jamaica, however, it is equally essential to bring an end to corruption and money laundering. This is because organised crime always depends on facilitators; the corrupt lawyers, accountants, bankers, real estate agents, business people, public officials and politicians who assist the criminals by laundering the proceeds of crime, establishing front businesses to conceal illegal activity, and investing criminal profits in legitimate assets.

This is why the US government's 'Strategy to Combat Transnational Organised Crime' says that the key to dismantling organised crime is to focus on the facilitators. When a gang loses its facilitators, it loses both its protection and its ability to launder money, which makes it an easier target for the police. Italy started to focus on the Mafia's facilitators in 1982, and has now almost destroyed two of the four main Mafia organisations as a result.

 

Resistance

 

There has always been particular resistance to effective anti-corruption measures, because the power and influence of some of the major beneficiaries of corruption have allowed them to block the necessary reforms. They prefer the fight against crime to be focused on reducing violence, rather than on their role in laundering money for criminals.

Another approach is needed to take down these facilitators. This requires good intelligence-gathering capability and inter-agency cooperation to trace their connections to organised crime and to track the financial transfers. They sometimes move the proceeds of crime across borders to make the source harder to trace, so international cooperation between law-enforcement agencies is essential.

Inter-agency cooperation in Jamaica is even more important, especially between the police, Tax Administration Jamaica, the Financial Investigations Division, the Customs agency, the banks, and other agencies with relevant expertise, as this would allow the authorities to develop a more complete financial profile of suspects. Any stolen assets can then be recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Targeting the facilitators, with a successful programme of asset recovery, would do much to cripple organised crime in Jamaica.