Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Bobby banking on... PEOPLE POWER! - Security minister wants network of law-abiding Jamaicans to fight crime

Published:Sunday | January 29, 2017 | 12:00 AMArthur Hall
Robert Montague

Minister of National Security Robert 'Bobby' Montague has vowed that a major crackdown on criminals will be launched this year as efforts are increased to make Jamaica a safer place. But he is warning that the effort to reduce crime will fail unless all law-abiding Jamaicans join in the fight.

"This is the year that good people must come together to fight the criminals. The criminals have a network, and it takes a network to beat a network, so the good citizens who see things, who hear things, and who know things, they must speak up," Montague told The Sunday Gleaner last Friday.

He argues that the police are being given additional resources to fight crime and have been doing a reasonable job but that their success this year will depend on collaboration with the people who want to see an end to the bloodletting.

"They must get over the fear and the hopelessness and know that the power is in their hands.

"We must change the national security doctrine in this country. It is not the police alone; it is not the soldiers alone. It is every single Jamaica who needs to break out. I feel it in every fibre of my body that this year, 2017, is the year when every Jamaican is finally going to come together and overcome that fear that is within them," said Montague.

With just over 100 persons murdered across the island since the start of the year, at a rate that is about 50 per cent higher than the corresponding period last year, Montague accepts that the fear expressed by several Jamaicans is real but argues that many of the killings are gang related.

"We are having many more murders this year than we had for the corresponding period last year, but when you look at the figures, you will find that a little more than half of them are gang related. You will find that gang members are killing each other ... so if you back away from those numbers, you will find a different picture.

"I understand that a lot of persons are feeling a little helpless, hopeless, and even powerless, but we say to them, the investment in the police intelligence network will take time to reap dividends," said Montague, who has found himself facing increased criticism.

Among his most vocal critics is Opposition Spokesman on National Security Peter Bunting, who, last week, told The Gleaner that Montague appeared not focused and did not seem to have the skill set to tackle the difficult crime portfolio.

But Montague argued that Bunting and many other critics are being unfair.

"We didn't get here overnight and our crime situation is not one-dimensional. There is no magic wand; there is no silver bullet; and there is no switch. We know it is going to take the cooperation of all Jamaicans, the dedication of the security forces ... and we are treating with the root causes rather than the symptoms," said Montague.

"Mr Bunting is a very bright man, and I respect his opinions, but now that he is in the Opposition, he has all the answers. He never had them before when he was in Government. But I respect his opinions and I have met with him three times because citizen safety and security in Jamaica is not a JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) or PNP (People's National Party) thing," added Montague.

He said that Bunting's claim that the Government is not focused on crime does not take into account what has been done in the almost one year since the JLP administration was voted into office.

"The focus is, right now, to protect our borders. The police picked up over 800 illegal guns last year, but it is estimated that hundreds more entered the island. If we do not cut off the flow of guns, we are not going anywhere.

"What we are doing is to secure our borders to cut off the flow of guns and then to increase the possibility of picking up illegal guns, then having a forensic lab so that when we get these guns, we can mine all the information and present our courts with evidence to put away the perpetrators," said Montague.

The national security minister said that areas such as the justice system, the prisons, and social intervention are among the areas that Government has targeted as part of a holistic approach to tackling crime.