'Repel the gangsters' - Jamaica needs strict gun laws to reduce crime, says Japanese official
With Jamaica struggling to cope with one of the highest murder rates in the world, a security officer based at the Japanese Embassy in Kingston has outlined a host of measures the country could implement to help reduce gun crimes.
He told The Gleaner that Japan managed to get a grip on gun crimes by working with residents to rid communities of gangsters, along with imposing strict gun laws over different periods.
"The society has to repel the gangsters. In Japan, many hot springs (bathing facilities) refuse for the gang members to enter their facilities, or on the golf course; you shut them out (from everything)! That is very difficult, but the police also help them to keep away the gangsters," said the official, who was authorised to speak, but requested anonymity for security purposes.
"Punishment under the gun control act got more severe day by day. If you fire a gun in a public place, the punishment will (almost inevitably) be three years and up to life in prison. If you possess a gun and ammunition at the same time, the punishment will be three years or more. If you possess a gun for organised crime, the imprisonment is five years or more, and you get a fine as well, which is 30 million yen, close to J$30 million."
Japan currently has 22 officially recognised criminal organisations, with the Yakuza gang being the largest and most sophisticated. However, cases involving the firing of guns are very rare.
In 2015, only eight shootings occurred. This is drastically low when compared with the destruction that could have been caused by the more than 380 illegal guns confiscated by the police for the same period.
Those impressive records, the official said, were as a result of high-quality intelligence gathering, achieved by maintaining close relationships with communities, as well as providing trustworthy and effective policing.
"Our intelligence gathering is effective because the Yakuza gangsters themselves say it is very difficult to carry out their job. If they commit a crime in the name of the gang, they are severely punished, so it is very difficult for them to manage their business," he pointed out.
Cameras can help prevent gun crimes
With a population of more than 120 million, Japan had 933 murders in 2015, which occurred without the use of firearms, demonstrating that nowhere is exempt from murders, but instances where the gun is used can be reduced.
An official of the Japanese Embassy in Kingston told The Gleaner that the likelihood of being caught for a murder or any other type of crime is crucial in preventing future crimes.
"Arrest cases [in Japan] were 938, so arrests for murder cases are very high," said the official, who was authorised to speak but requested anonymity for security purposes. "In my opinion, it is very, very important to catch the criminal. That prevents another murder."
TRUST JUSTICE SYSTEM
There is very little objection from the citizens of Japan to cooperate with the police because persons are aware of the high rate of arrests.
The official also highlighted that surveillance cameras could play a big part in preventing gun crimes in Jamaica.
He recommends that Jamaica adopt a similar approach.
"In some areas, we have security cameras. The police ask persons to submit their own camera (evidence). We don't have much security cameras in public, but some people do have cameras in their shops and their house. That would be very effective in Jamaica. Under the Japanese police strategy, they seize camera records, car records or telephone records. Those are the main strategies to catch the criminals," he stressed.
"Some people might stay quiet and be afraid, but the arrest rate is so high, the people will trust the justice system."