Mon | Sep 24, 2018

Gordon Robinson | The politics of crime

Published:Sunday | September 2, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Latoya Riley, mother of 14-year-old Yetanya Francis, is inconsolable after her daughter's charred remains were discovered on August 24, 2018.
A resident of Arnett Gardens looks at the spot where the partially burnt body of 14-year-old Yetanya Francis was found.
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I've tried to leave crime alone.

Really. Tried. Hard. But political reactions to the brutal murder of 14-year-old Yetanya Francis were infuriating. Brainless, convenient, populist drivel abounded. For example, the PM seemed to forget, perhaps momentarily, that citizens' safety, prevention of crime and criminals' accountability for crime are all Government's responsibility.

He said (as reported by RJR):

"I've spoken to the minister of national security and commissioner of police. They emphasised their resolve to ensure the perpetrator(s) are brought to justice ... . We all must stand united against these criminals."

Ok then. PM had a talk with natsec minister/commish. Ain't it wondrous? They also spoke (politics' favourite crisis-solution tool) and not only resolved to bring the perpetrators to justice but EMPHASISED that resolve. Whew! I feel so much better.

But, hold on. How are they going to do this? The PM appealed to anyone with information on the killing to report it to the police or Crime Stop. He talked some more:

"Witnesses don't need to fear their information will be exposed, as we have Crime Stop ... and other ways to give information. I'm asking members of the [Arnett Gardens] community, if they know who the criminals are, to turn them over to the police ... ."

DWRCL! In the same RJR News report:

"Faced with calls for a speedy investigation of the murder of 14-year-old Yetanya Francis in Arnett Gardens, senior investigators will on Monday conduct a review of the case ... . The review will take place even as police report they still have no lead in the probe.

"On the weekend, detectives from the Denham Town CIB said they were making slow progress and appealed to residents of West Street in Arnett Gardens to provide information.

"The cops have not yet identified a suspect in the case as the residents have reportedly remained silent."

Say it ain't so! Tell me RJR is blind, deaf and dumb! Tell me "senior investigators'" approach to citizens' security is NOT just to "conduct a review of the case"! Please say they're NOT depending on the same citizens, scared into involuntary evacuation and corresponding inaction despite hearing the young girl's screams, to come forward and expose themselves to a JCF perceived as corrupt and in league with organised crime. Tell me JCF has a different plan! Tell me this is misdirection aimed at the perpetrators.

"Tell me a lie.

Say I look familiar

though I know

that you don't even know my name.

Tell me a lie.

Say ya just got into town

even though I've seen you here before just hangin' around."

Tell me JCF is NOT blaming its inability to identify suspects on citizens' terrified silence? So what the framfrig are we paying THEM to do? Surely, police have the forensic capability to preserve and analyse crime-scene evidence, including any carelessly deposited DNA from a "partially burned" body of an allegedly raped, then murdered girl? Tell me JCF have collected any evidence of defensive wounds to her assailant(s) and are combing police records for forensic links to the criminal(s). Do these records exist?

"Tell me a lie.

Say you're not a married man.

'Cause you don't know

I saw you slip off your wedding band."

Please tell me police already have professionally gathered intelligence pointing to the likely profile/identity of the murderer(s). Tell me that, in a high-gang activity city, JCF already knows who or who is more than likely to have the opportunity, means and motive to commit such an atrocity.

Tell me that likely suspects are coming from a small pool of aberrants well known to police who are NOT sitting around on their hands waiting for frightened residents to come tell them who the murderers should next eliminate! Tell me JCF has already narrowed their suspect list from three million inhabitants to a select few. If this isn't so, what are they doing about crime on a daily basis?

"Tell me a lie

when you take me home.

(Tell me a lie)

I don't really want to spend the night alone.

Tell me a lie.

Don't worry about my sorrow.

You'll be long gone tomorrow

and you won't have to see me cry.

Just tell me a lie."

Tell me a Lie, co-written (with Mickey Buckins) and first recorded by Barbara Wyrick as covered by Sami Jo Cole, then made into a monster hit by country music's Janie Fricke, comments on the very real human attraction to illusion. Everybody wants to pretend.

 

PHILLIPS' MESSAGE

 

So, the opposition leader was on spot to utter his own facile, mealy-mouthed platitudes. According to RJR:

"... He'll be seeking a meeting with Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson to discuss the probe into the murder.

"He also urged [Arnett Gardens] residents to provide police with any information they might have on the killers."

Yawn. He, too, will be meeting and talking. He, too, wants the citizenry to solve the brutal murder. Oh, and it wouldn't hurt if some political advantage should just happen his way. Egged on by Arnett residents, who are notoriously PNP supporters, he added:

"I know the police [are] short-staffed because of the [ZOSOs] and state of emergency (sic) which pull away police from a community like this. But you can't solve part of the problem and make it get worse in other places."

Scrise! There's so much crapola in this brief quote:

- JCF had staffing crises long before faux states of emergency (SOEs) or ZOSOs;

- How many police were 'pulled away from Arnett Gardens for reassignment to ZOSOs or SOEs? Or is that |a facile figment of political imagination?

- How the rungus kungus mi nungus could any cancelled reassignment prevent this vicious crime?

- SOEs/ZOSOs have solved nothing. They're Band-Aids.

- Where's the evidence that the "enhanced security measures" cause increased crime elsewhere? Increased crime is Jamaica's new norm. Lest we forget, there were 170 murders in 1970; by 1978, 351; 543 (1990); 887 (2000); and 1,428 in 2010. So, please stop playing politics with national security. Nobody will ever again ride to electoral glory on another empty promise to make us safe. The evidence is that no political candidate knows how or is willing to do what's required.

It gets worse. PNP vice-presidential candidate Damion 'Mout' Mek fi Chat' Crawford (as quoted by The Gleaner) relieved himself of this egregious effluent: "It's also my opinion that individuals who are aware of a crime and take no action to intervene in even as basic a way as calling the police should be considered accomplices to the crime, as reports of the screams for help, ignored by neighbours, are equally atrocious."

Jesus H. Christ on a Japanese crutch! Is there NOTHING out of bounds when it comes to the crusade for political advantage?

For the last time, NOTHING that fails to include de-corruption of the JCF; then providing modern, tech-driven, crime-detection equipment and training can even dent our crime problem. Until then, shameless shifting of responsibility to residents without means of self-protection against heartless monsters terrorising communities by asking them to "come forward", is pusillanimous pretence.

 

ACCEPT RESPONSIBILiTY

 

Government (and government-in-waiting) must accept responsibility for national security. Having been oblivious ostriches (best case) or actively assistants (worst case) as organised crime grew and flourished while spinning off a corrupt JCF and petrified communities understanding clearly 'informa fi dead', politicians no longer have the option of blaming citizens. They can't justifiably expect citizens to "come forward".

Don't believe self-serving denials. Who attended Burry Boy's, Jim Brown's, and Willie Haggart's funerals? C'mon, man up and accept responsibility for crime solutions. Citizens 'coming forward' can only be a desirable future goal to be achieved through focused government policy, followed by committed implementation. And, no, I'm not talking about passing more useless legislation.

Instead, Government might consider dismantling the varied tools of obfuscated responsibility and political excuse creation like INDECOM, the Police Service Commission and the Office of the Services Commissions. Then it could properly equip, staff and train an internal affairs division within JCF; amend the Constitution to provide for impeachment of cabinet ministers and recall of MPs; and then create a singular chain of responsibility from the police commissioner directly to the national security minister.

BTW, a truly independent judiciary (disconnected from the justice ministry) and a strong, constitutionally free media are key ingredients without which we'll continue to spit in the sky at crime.

Then, the responsible minister could set about weeding out JCF corruption in a context that treats the issue as one of national security and not a soup in which several cooks toss in their favourite spices and the responsible minister must drink with a fork.

Maybe this isn't how Westminster does it, but we are NOT in Westminster. Wi deh a yard!

Peace and love.

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