No Ease in Crime Fighting for St James
Although St James registered a reduction in murders in 2014, stakeholders in the parish remain unhappy with crime figures and are seeking to implement new strategies to deal with the problem in 2015.
Citing a murder total of 157 in 2014, down from 166 in 2013, Derrick Champagnie, police superintendent in charge of St James, told The Gleaner that the police were committed to achieving a much lower murder rate for this year.
"We here in St James have crafted a policing plan for 2015, and we have set a number of achievable targets. We want to significantly reduce murders; 157 for the year is way too high," he said.
"Our best practices will be enhanced and rolled out into other areas. Where they need to be tweaked, they will be tweaked so we can get the murder numbers closer to 100 for this year. That is our target, we are looking at maybe 120 murders, coming from a high of 157," Champagnie added.
Among the strategies the superintendent outlined is an increase in public education, incorporating all sectors of the society.
"We realise that where there are continuous meetings with the citizens to include neighbourhood watch meetings and citizens' association meetings, we tend to have a lower crime rate; so public education is also going to be critical in order to get the support we need from citizens," he said.
Where gang activities are resulting in murders, Champagnie said the police would be "devising strategies in order to dismantle and displace those gangs that contribute immensely to murders".
He referenced the community of Granville, once a mecca of crime and violence in St James, as a positive example of the police's efforts in reducing murders in the parish, while also setting targets for other troublesome policing areas.
"Last year, Granville recorded nine, murders. If we can make that achievement in Granville, gradually, we can make those achievements in the Montego Bay, Barnett Street and Mount Salem policing areas which all contributed in the high 20s for 2014," he said.
While expressing a level of satisfaction for the reduction in murders, O. Dave Allen, noted community activist in Granville, said the current figures were still intolerable.
"I think it's commendable and, frankly speaking, we have to attribute this to the work of the police... but fundamentally, it is unacceptable the levels of murder, despite the tremendous reduction. It is intolerable that we should even celebrate the fact that so many people have been murdered in St James," he said.
Allen added: "I do not think many of the fundamental issues have been addressed, such as development opportunities. Too many people are excluded. Values and attitudes have not been addressed and, from where we sit in Granville, we believe that economic issues have also not been addressed."
In expressing his dissatisfaction with the parish's murder total, Gerard Mitchell, chairman of the St James Parish Development Committee, called for the resumption of hanging.
"From my perspective, the minister of national security asked for divine intervention but I think it requires a little more than that. Apart from social intervention, some strict measures need to be put in place to deal with crime, and what I think we need to do is to resume hanging."
According to Mitchell, while some persons may view hanging as draconian, that seems to be the only way in which the society can truly put a stop to crime and violence.
Meanwhile, Pastor Glen O. Samuels, president of the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, wants criminals to feel unsafe operating within the society.
"It's going to take the cooperative effort of everyone to make it (crime fighting) work. Part of the attainability of it must rest with making criminals feel unsafe, in making them believe they are going to be caught ... . I want to commend both the minister and operational chief in the Jamaica Constabulary Force for what they have been doing, but we really have to go a little further in our investigative techniques," he said.