Tue | May 23, 2017

Stop counting bodies - commissioner wants all to help fight crime instead

Published:Friday | July 3, 2015 | 7:00 AMGary Spaulding
Commissioner of Police Dr Carl Williams

As the murder tally races towards the 600 mark in the first seven months of 2015, Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams said he would be outlining how the public, including the media, can assist in crime fighting, instead of merely "standing aside and counting bodies".

Everybody needs to know that it's not just the police, but they, too, have a role to play instead of standing aside and counting bodies ... . The community and the media also have a role to play," said Williams.

The police chief told The Gleaner that there was no short fix to cauterising the crime wave gripping the nation, even as he promised to impart fresh information on the way forward at a press conference next Monday.

"The police are doing all they can, but we will be tweaking some of the measures being employed," Williams said. "The police are still on the job. If they were not, things would have been much worse," he added.

At the same time, National Security Minister Peter Bunting remained mute yesterday, even as bodies pile up from criminal bloodletting, with multiple murders becoming commonplace in rural communities since the start of the year.

With the murder rate accelerating halfway into 2015, The Gleaner was told that Bunting was off the island. A message requesting a comment from him went unanswered yesterday.

With 572 murders recorded between January 1 and June 30 this year, Williams opted not to share too much ahead of the press conference.

 

OUTLINING STRATEGY

 

"We are going to be recapping the last six months and where we go from here, but I don't want to preempt that, and you will have an opportunity to ask questions," the police commissioner said when asked to elaborate.

He noted that strategies implemented to combat serious crimes would not necessarily yield immediate results.

"I remain very convinced that they will, eventually, bear results, and so I will be outlining how they are expected to reap better results and tell others the roles that they are expected to play," he said.

Professor Anthony Clayton, head of the Institute for Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies, said the rise in the homicide rate appeared to be driven by the lottery scam.

"Much of the increased violence is concentrated in known clusters of scamming activity," he told The Gleaner.

According to Clayton, it is relatively easy for local people to see who has suddenly become ostentatiously wealthy by defrauding people, and these scammers are often then targeted by other criminals who try to intercept the money, extort cash, or take over the business. As the scammers are themselves criminals and cannot account for their wealth, they cannot go to the police, so the usual outcome is violence.

He suggested that there are not many quick solutions.

"We need to break up the scamming operations, intercept the money, seize the assets, and capture the weapons, but that requires cooperation from the communities, intelligence-led policing operations, joint operations with US law enforcement, rapid processing of these cases in our courts, and extradition where warranted," Clayton said.

 

100 MURDERS IN ST JAMES

 

With two double murders having dealt severe blows to families in Westmoreland on Wednesday, even as St James became the first parish to record 100 murders since the start of the year, Bunting appears to be missing in action.

A father and son were killed in Westmoreland on Wednesday, the first day of July. They are Jahboukie Wynter and his father, Trevor Wynter, otherwise called 'Pepper Rock'.

On Wednesday night, the district of Church Lincoln in the parish became the latest community to flaunt a murderous rampage when three armed men opened gunfire at two men - 19-year-old Tajay Samuels and 20-year-old Trevoy Russell.

But as the carnage rages, there are mumblings within

the ranks of the Jamaica Constabulary Force that there are demoralising elements that are having a severely debilitating effect on crime fighters.

Not only have they found Bunting's attitude to their agitation for higher wages and fringe benefits wanting, but threats of being hauled before the courts by the Independent Commission of Investigations or members of the public who brandish cameras to record their activities, with no way of financing legal costs, are of concern to them.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com