Letter of the Day | Time for a new approach
THE EDITOR, Sir:
I listened keenly to the prime minister's new year's message in which he declared his confidence in the ability of his administration to successfully tackle crime. I was pleased to hear about the upgrade in technology to help the Jamaica Constabulary Force in its efforts as well as the prime minister highlighting that poverty is not an excuse for individuals to commit crime. However, I remain disappointed in the message. Corruption is one of the biggest facilitators of crime, as well as a justice system in which the people have little confidence, and neither of these were significantly addressed in the message.
Faith in the justice system is compromised by the belief that persons with sufficient economic and/or political backing are allowed to operate above and outside of the law. Also, many people who are victims of crime are demotivated because of the perception that the police will not do anything about it. The experiences of women, for example, who have tried to report rape and/or domestic violence to police officers who are unresponsive, keep them away from the criminal justice system. The result is that rape often occurs with impunity and without redress.
The police cannot effectively reduce crime when there is no public support or buy-in. The victims of crimes are not reporting, the witnesses of crimes are not stepping forward, and the perpetrators of crimes are walking around freely and defiantly. At some point, we need to recognise that beyond "getting tough and getting strict" on crime, we must get smart, compassionate and cooperative.
A lot of work
The police have a lot of work to do to improve their reputation in the public's eye by building relationships within communities and being more accessible, rather than defensive, combative and oppressive in inner-city communities. The investigative arm of the force also has a lot of work to do alongside the courts to increase the rates of successful prosecutions in a timely fashion. The Jamaican public needs to believe in the police force, and frankly, members of the police force need to believe in themselves. Until that happens, crime will always be the monster underneath our beds.