Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Gordon Robinson | No microwave fixes for crime

Published:Sunday | July 31, 2016 | 7:00 AM
Police use caution tape to block off the entrance to the Kingston Mall during their investigation into a murder-suicide in downtown Kingston on July 15. A security guard shot and killed his spouse before slaying himself.

If I hear one more person ask what can be done today or short term to reduce crime, I'm likely to commit a non-bailable offence.

If I hear one more self-styled defender of the Constitution try to answer these inane questions, I'll have the same personal problem. A constitution is the foundation upon which every nation is built; enshrines all well-thinking persons' intrinsic values; and without which civilisation becomes chaos. The rights guaranteed to citizens protect YOU and ME from excesses of state power, NOT from criminals.

If we subvert the Constitution and hand over extraordinary additional powers to ignore these guaranteed protections to those already so careless with state power that they gave birth to INDECOM, we'll expose YOU and ME to runaway state abuse in addition to our current vulnerability to criminals AND we'll have surrendered Jamaica to arbitrary violence as a way of life.

The ONLY thing we won't achieve by this unholy arrangement is crime reduction. Not a whit; not a scintilla; not an iota. Get this: Jamaica has been working assiduously for 40 years on creating this crime monster. For 40 years we've starved the JCF of resources it needs to curb crime. Police commissioner after police commissioner has come; struggled to carry water in the basket provided; and left under clouds of criticism. Yet we're calling for another commissioner's head. Ye gods!

For 40 years, we've ensured that only society's lesser-qualified enter the JCF. For 40 years, we've fought crime with crime, giving unqualified police big guns, teaching them to kick down citizens' doors and fight fire with fire. Thank God we don't yet have to fight suicide bombers.

For 40 years, we've neglected youth, providing neither education tailored to their lives nor job opportunities for graduates. Our drunken-sailor approach to national budgets ensures economic stagnation while we pay lip service to social interventions every Jamaican community needs. Then our best crime-solving strategy asks these communities to 'inform' on the only persons showing the community any empathy. Good luck with that!

For 40 years, we've ignored the pervasive, society-eroding effect of corruption. We routinely bribe policemen to withhold traffic tickets and civil servants to do what they're already paid by taxpayers to do.

We created this crime monster with 40 years of sincere effort. We've perfected the art of jumping gates, littering roadways as a matter of pride; 'bad-driving' to convert what was a safe, two-minute-longer journey into a national tragedy. We conceived crime, nurtured it, educated it, fed it, and proudly watched it grow.

The final straw is the lotto scam, which is at the root of the recent crime wave but, apparently, can't be corralled. The uncomfortable truth is we don't want to corral lotto scamming because we benefit from it, whether as corrupt cops/politicians with pop-offs, family members happy for regular handouts, business people with rapidly increased sales, or ordinary 'law-abiding' citizens with suddenly improved prospects whose teenage children drive fancy cars or now find trickle-down job opportunities previously unavailable. Because we don't want to stop lotto scamming, we've become expert pretenders. We've blocked formal money-transfer avenues but haven't tried to block scammers' alternative, human couriers.

These couriers clock more frequent-flyer miles than Usain at the Olympics and carry vast sums for lotto scam's big bosses. Nobody harasses them, detains them without bail, or questions them. One fine day they realise they're taking all the 'risk' for relatively small returns, so they abscond with scammers' cash. Suddenly, entire families are murdered and police, national security ministers and myriad civic leaders engage in hand-wringing exercises of which Rett Syndrome patients would be proud.

We don't want to stop lotto scamming. If we did, we'd be tracking down the vast numbers of 15-/16-year-olds driving brand new SUVs, detaining, questioning, or following them until they expose Mr Big(s). If we wanted to stop lotto scamming, we'd stop talking rubbish about 'saturating' the west with policemen. Instead, we'd lawfully tap telephones of persons with sudden, unexplained wealth; politicians flush with campaign funds; and businessmen with suddenly flourishing businesses.

But we don't want to prevent lotto scamming. We prefer hand-wringing. Then, asinine, self-appointed public commentators/'analysts' (mostly under 40) support the abridging of my constitutional rights as the solution and ask inane questions like, "What would YOU suggest be done to curb crime NOW?"

NOTHING CAN BE DONE TO CURB CRIME 'NOW'. That which took 40 years to flourish won't be curbed immediately. There's no short cut. But we can start NOW.

Step One: Give police the resources needed to fight crime in 2016. These include computer equipment (with the ability to track crime by area and make division chiefs accountable); CCTVs covering Jamaica; modern motor vehicles (with trained drivers); and training in proper detective work, including lateral thinking and profiling. It also involves rooting out endemic police corruption. Other societal issues need simultaneous addressing such as police liaisons in schools; education for life (including dispute resolution and civics); proper parenting; and building a sound, advanced, tech-savvy economy on legitimate business activity, NOT extortion or scamming.

Abrogating constitutional rights won't cut it. Been there, done that. It doesn't work. What it does is satisfy Government's anxiety to impose faux 'austerity' (i.e., satisfy IMF demands) while whipping up conservative elements into a frenzy of expectation that'll keep us quiet for a time.

 

STEMMING GUN CRIME

 

Online reader 'Jangas' asked: "There's much talk about garrisons-n-guns. Why can't [MPs for these areas] be held to account?

"... How can we stop a man who is entitled to carry a firearm from going to his wife's workplace and shooting her up, and then shooting himself?"

Want to stem gun crime? Really? Seriously? The surest way to stem gun crime WITHOUT INFRINGING ONE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT is to make possession of guns by ordinary citizens unlawful across the board. Only police should carry guns.

The problem, of course, is this'll severely cramp many MPs bird-shooting season; crimp many a gun club's style; and seize from thousands of cowards the underpinning of their braggadocio, bravery, and general badmanship. Without their gun, how'll they impress girls? They'll have to use personal cannons.

There's good news. Minister Montague, Sectoral Debate: "This administration over a three-year period [will] make the largest investment in the national-security apparatus in our history ... ."

Hooray! But, Minister, mout' mek fi chat, so we want specifics. How much is being spent, and on what? Minister, your faux pas about keeping spending details secret was plain dumb, and so must've been the result of a bad day. I won't hold it against you. Your bosses (that's us) must know how their tax dollars are being spent and whether the purchases are suitable for 21st-century crime detection. Criminals WILL find out, no matter what you do to keep it secret.

This minister also said, in defence of Government's threat to take away bail applications from murder accused, he owed a duty to families of 130 people killed by persons on bail while accused of murder. YES, YOU DO. How could you allow that to happen? Why are you blaming bail for police's inability to properly monitor persons on bail?

Minister, do you feel an equal duty to the family of that female Alpha student shot in the head by a policeman while she was committing the capital offence of sitting in a 'robot' taxi? Is that the same police you plan to discharge your duty to victims' families by giving additional powers to kick down their doors, 'search' their homes, plant guns and charge them with murder so they can be locked up indefinitely and spouses become fair game?

Minister, do you feel an equal duty to the family of Keith Clarke, who was shot more than 20 times in the back by soldiers invading his home?

Instead of deliberately breaching the Constitution it swore to uphold (no bail for certain offences), Government might consider legislating bail for a murder accused, if granted, be conditional on the accused wearing a computerised ankle bracelet and being restricted to his home? Oh, snap! I forget! Government can't spare funds to buy ankle bracelets. Priorities like CDF contracts for activists and tax waivers for MPs' new cars are more urgent.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.