We want peace
More Jamaicans willing to become police informants
Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
THE LEADERS OF two of the island's main violence-prevention initiatives say a yearning for peace is pushing more residents in some of the most volatile communities across the Corporate Area to pass information to the police, but insist that the culture of "informer fi dead" is still very pervasive.
Horace Levy, director of the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), and Dr Elizabeth Ward, chairman of the Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA), believe the community-policing strategies of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and declarations by some political leaders that they are "police informers" are among the factors that have helped to change some people's attitude towards the police.
"Where the police are working effectively with the communities, and where they are building trust and respect, they are getting a lot more cooperation and assistance in tracking down people whom they want," Ward said yesterday.
"But in other communities, it (the informer fi dead mentality) has not improved, so I can't say it's across the board," she continued.
Levy pointed to August Town - the volatile St Andrew community where criminal gangs agreed to a peace treaty six years ago - as an example of how residents in war-torn communities were beginning to enjoy their newfound peace.
"The people felt [at the time] like they were on top of the gangs, and this feeling had them partying every night," Levy said, noting that they organised "some of the best parties".
RELIEF THEN ANGER
He recalled how relief turned to anger when a killing by one of the gangs in the community shattered that peace.
"They were very angry and they wanted to go after them, but they are prepared to leave it to the police. People were angry because things were going so well, and they were able to move around, and there was no need for this type of action," he emphasised.
The observations come days after Deputy Superintendent Neville Knight, who is attached to the St Andrew South Police Division, used the reduction in murders across the division to proclaim that the days of "informer fi dead" are over.
The division covers some of the traditional crime hot spots such as Drewsland, Olympic Gardens, Waterhouse, Sherlock Crescent, Balcombe Drive, Payne Avenue, Majesty Gardens and sections of lower Maxfield Avenue.
Knight revealed that since the start of the year, there have been 50 murders in the division, a 29 per cent decrease when compared to the corresponding period last year. According to him, there were 70 reported murders in the division all of last year.
He said increased police presence and partnerships with community members were the major factors that contributed to the decline and noted that those activities "helped to build the community's trust and confidence in the police".
"The informer-fi-dead days are over. People within these communities love peace," Knight stressed during a ceremony on Wednesday to mark the opening of the Caribbean Palm Estate Information Technology Resource and Skills Training Centre.
But Ward warned that these gains could be quickly wiped out by a single misstep by the police.
"If something happened where the police go in and do something terrible, then they can turn around and break down that relationship," the VPA chairman warned.
East Kingston and Port Royal Member of Parliament Phillip Paulwell and his opposition counterpart from West Kingston, Desmond McKenzie, are among the political leaders who have publicly declared themselves police informers as part of their attempts to encourage more Jamaicans to pass information to the police.