Sat | Aug 19, 2017

New approach needed to tackle crime

Published:Wednesday | March 2, 2016 | 3:21 PMChristopher Serju

Security consultant Robert Finzi-Smith says the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government should provide well-needed resources to better equip and mobilise the security forces. 

He is also urging the new administration to make a parallel socio-economic investment in the nation’s at risk youth, in order to begin to address, in a significant way, the country’s worrying crime situation.

“What we are not doing right is that we are not ensuring that our average citizen has a feeling of importance. That is why people write them name pon walls… they want the recognition and some people do crimes to see it appear in the papers, then call him friend them and say, ‘a me that you know, a my duppy that.’ We now need to give people a reason for fame, outside of notoriety,”  Finzi-Smith argued.

And the media also have a pivotal role in helping to empower Jamaicans, according to Finzi-Smith who noted that negative stories tend to easily make the headlines.

“Whatever happened to the page 1 which says, ‘Student hits nine CXC subjects’? People need to make sure that youngsters are brought up with a feeling of achievement for the right things, rather than the wrong things. We place emphasis on everything negative in this country,” he added.

The Jamaica Labour Party in the 10 Steps to Safety and Security on page 17 of its campaign manifesto promised to make public security and crime control a national priority by investing and committing a minimum percentage of the national budget to achieve improved security and crime reduction over the next five years.

This is especially urgent in light of a Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll published on Wednesday, October 14, last year, which suggested the former People’s National Party (PNP) which lost the February 5 polls, was out its depth in fighting crime and violence.

Seven out of every 10 of the 1,200 residents across the island who participated in the survey from September 25-27 said the then government was doing a poor job of tackling crime. The poor rating came little more than two weeks after the police high command released data showing a 20 per cent increase in murder for the period January to September 5, 2015, compared with the similar period in 2014. Between January and September 5, last year, 826 persons were murdered in Jamaica, compared with 686 killed over the corresponding period in 2014.

However, the poor handling of the crime situation is not unique to the PNP, according to Finzi-Smith.

“Crime has been addressed by both parties, in almost the same way. It is as though we are trying to adjust the question (of crime) to fit our answers."

The JLP, among other things, had promised to address inadequacies in the police’s ability to move around and respond to situations as they should.

In step eight of its 10 Steps to Safety and Security, the JLP said it would take an “out of the box” approach to building police mobility during its first two years in office by purchasing 600 used motor vehicles and 400 motor bikes to ensure uniformed and hidden patrols can reach every part of the country.

The JLP has also identified community-based policing as a linchpin of its crime fighting efforts promising, among other things, to build or deploy 30 small police posts in areas identified as crime spots to place the police closer to where they are most needed. However Finzi-Smith who is the senior inspector in charge of safety and security at the University of Technology (UTech) believes the term ‘community policing’ is overused and largely misunderstood.

He explained: “Community policing is just a terminology people use to be politically correct. Policemen need to be placed in areas where they know people and people know them. A former police commissioner did us a great disservice by removing front-line police crime fighters who knew every single one of the criminals and sent them to 'never, never land' and replaced them with young constables who wouldn’t know a crime if it hit them in the face."

“Anybody who tell you that crime don’t pay is lying to you. Crime pays, that’s why people do it. You now have a new government coming to power and I hope desperately that they know what they are doing and they can deliver because if they don’t, your crime reporting days will get exciting.”