Mon | Jan 22, 2018

A shout for critical first steps

Published:Saturday | December 17, 2016 | 12:00 AM


Like many others, I am encouraged by the Prime Minister's statement of firm commitment on the part of his government to deal with the murder problem. At the same time, I have been unhappy over the way in which his government is carrying out that commitment - doubly so when the numbers for November hit me.

The minister of national security has no magic bullet to prevent the corpses from appearing on the streets and in the bushes and piling up in the morgues. No single pill or stitch can stop the haemorrhage. But even while the strategising toward the comprehensive plan is going on (and good appointments and measures have been announced), some meaningful short-term step is urgently demanded.

The country is bleeding. 171 murders were recorded last month (November up to December 3), plus 11 fatalities by police. That meant six violent deaths daily. In the third week the number was 51 murders, more than seven a day. The last time the carnage approached this level was in 2009. Think, too, of the trauma in the families of the over 1,000 murders this year. On top of last year's trauma and the trauma of the years before. Trauma is deep emotional distress. That is the reality. There is a shout across the rooftops. It says: "Do something!"

Action must start from a focus on the very specific (not just broadly parish) places where the killings are more frequent. It must start with the observation, obvious though it may be, that what is spurring them is economic need: the takings from extortion in some cases and from scamming in others, coupled with defence of the spoils against competitors.




The next step, as Damian Hutchinson has pointed out, is to challenge the solution that relies solely on catching or 'taking out' the leaders of violent St Catherine factions, or of 'neutralising' this or that scamming "don". Is the result likely to be any better than the chaos in west Kingston since the removal of Dudus? Indeed, that bit of history had an earlier parallel in the sequel to the removal, a few years back, of the big Montego Bay drug dons: the sequel was scamming. A current parallel is the result of pressure on the St James' nerve centre: it is the spread of scamming into Westmoreland, even into St Elizabeth and Manchester. Just think, Westmoreland, rural Westmoreland, has recorded 103 murders so far this year.

So, something else has to go alongside, though manifestly distinct from, imperative police efforts against faction leaders and criminal scammers. Something not just long-term but short-term, immediate, like pumping more resources - as small as $100 million - into the violence-interruption programme and making use of the intelligence that resides in it.

A programme, organisation and leadership that has shown how to bring community-restoring stability to so many regions must surely have the kinds of insight and methods that the present murderous situation desperately requires. Results would appear in months. But continuity would be crucial.

Horace Levy