JPs fear for their lives, says Bryan - Justices of the peace urged to fight crime in their communities
Claudette Bryan, president of the St James Lay Magistrates' Association, is urging justices of the peace (JPs) not to allow fear of reprisal by criminal elements to keep them from carrying out their duties or from playing their part to curb crime in their communities.
"I believe that a lot of the justices fear for their lives because the community is not what it used to be. But it ought not to be so because when we were trained, we were empowered with knowledge and with authority. We have to raise our level of authority and influence in the community so the people can respect us accordingly," Bryan told The Gleaner recently.
The Lay Magistrates' Association president suggested that given the current crime wave, which saw more than 1,325 persons being murdered in Jamaica in 2016, fear of becoming victims has provoked JPs into shutting themselves off from playing their part in crime reduction.
Authority and influence
Bryan said justices of the peace feared for their lives, too, "So when they go home, they are going to lock their doors and lock their gates, and they are not going to want to open them again until they are ready to go out the next morning.
"But we are empowered to do what we are called to do, and until we get to that place where we know we have the authority and influence to make changes, we will remain the same. As justices, we have the authority and influence that can speak into people's lives," Bryan added.
Bryan said that JPs need to take more active roles in their communities "because we have been trained, and these are things we are encouraged to do. So if two neighbours` have a fuss, the justice should be able to go and say, 'I hear the fuss. I have got the complaints. Let us talk about the situation'."
Last September, while addressing St James-based JPs in a town-hall meeting, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck urged them and other residents to be proactive in fighting the spiralling crime wave, which subsequently resulted in a whopping 268 murders being recorded for the parish at the end of 2016.
"The violence overtaking St James is not something that can make St James and Jamaica proud. If we are going to fight back against the criminals, it cannot just be police work," Chuck said at the time. "Every one of us must play a part. This is your community, and you need to retake it from the evildoers because if you do not, who will?"