Crackdown - Green light given to anti-crime campaign to go after criminals
Less than a week into his tenure as minister of national security, Robert Montague revealed yesterday that he had given the green light to a multifaceted anti-crime campaign developed by the Police High Command to crack down on hardened criminals, serious crimes, and quality-of-life offences nationwide.
Quality-of-life offences include loitering and vagrancy.
Montague declined, for security reasons, to discuss aspects of the initiative but indicated that it would be rolled out this week before delivering an ominous warning.
"I make an appeal, through this medium, to all Jamaicans to cooperate with the police, and if you know you have a warrant or a ticket outstanding, just go down to the [police] station," the minister said during an exclusive interview with The Gleaner yesterday,
"Cooperating with the police will ensure greater public safety," he underscored.
Deputy Commissioner Clifford Blake confirmed late yesterday that the Police High Command was still in discussions with the Jamaica Defence Force and was fine-tuning operational plans. He said that these should be finalised today and implementation could begin before the end of the week.
"I can confirm that the execution of warrants will be part of it. The targeting of wanted persons and an increased police presence in public spaces will form some aspects of it," hinted Blake, who has responsibility for the operations portfolio.
He, however, gave the assurance that the operations would not include any activities that would affect the rights of law-abiding citizens.
On the crime-fighting front, Montague said that among other things, the campaign would target persons who are wanted for various offences; ensure the delivery of warrants and summonses "that have been stuck at police stations"; and increase the number of vehicular checkpoint operations that are conducted.
On the softer side, Montague said that the Police High Command would ensure that rank-and-file members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) fanned out across the island and became more involved in church and farmers' groups, and youth clubs, and that police personnel would conduct themselves in a more courteous manner during their interactions with members of the public.
"The commissioner [of police] and the High Command have assured me of the success of the programme that they have laid out because it is based on a lot of research and a lot of analysis. It's a far-reaching programme, and I am very confident in the programme," Montague asserted.
Amid a decline in all other categories of serious crimes, Jamaica recorded a 20 per cent increase in murders last year. According to statistics compiled by the JCF, just over 1,200 persons were reported killed last year compared with 1,005 for 2014.
However, police statistics show that for the first month of this year, the number of reported murders dipped by almost 30 per cent. There were 73 reported murders in January compared to 103 for the corresponding month last year.
In the wide-ranging interview, Montague gave the assurance that he was up to the task of managing the national security portfolio and identified public safety and the building of partnerships among stakeholder groups as two of the areas to which he would give priority attention.
"I intend to start a series of parish consultations to hear from the ordinary Jamaican, not only the policy persons. Not to go and give a big speech, but to listen," he explained.