Wed | Sep 19, 2018

Letter of the Day | MPs, cops accountable for anti-gang law failure

Published:Monday | October 30, 2017 | 12:00 AM


In 2014, the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organizations) Act, popularly called the anti-gang legislation, was passed into law on the premise of being the tool the police force needed to dismantle the estimated 300 criminal gangs responsible for a high percentage of Jamaica's murders.

Our legislators on both sides of the political divide fully supported this law and endorsed it as the perfect solution the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) could use to rid the country of these gangs and substantially reduce murders and other serious crimes.


Ineffective legislation


However, in hindsight, it is quite clear that this legislation has proved ineffective and useless. Accordingly, the lawmakers who supported the bill, and the JCF, which is responsible for enforcing it, should be held accountable for the failure of this legislation to bring about the anticipated reduction in gang activities and the associated murder rate.

In 2015, the media reported that the police expected 500 people to face criminal charges under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organization) Act, or the anti-gang law. This report suggested that the police had sufficient intelligence to prosecute this number of people and that its intention to follow through was a noble objective.

However, based on the police force's failure to achieve this objective, it appears that '500' was a number plucked from somewhere for a grand announcement that had no substance or reality. Five hundred people did not face criminal charges in 2015 under the anti-gang law.


What is the real truth?


One is left to wonder whether there are 300 criminal gangs in Jamaica or whether the JCF has a clue as to the number of criminal gangs in Jamaica. If one accepts that there are likely to be at least five members per gang, the number of gang members should be a minimum of 1,500. If this is an accurate figure, we can justifiably ask how many of these gangsters have been arrested and, more important still, over the past three years, which gangs have the JCF been able to penetrate or dismantle?

What is the real truth regarding criminal gangs in Jamaica? Certainly, it must be easier to obtain intelligence on criminal gangs than on individual gunmen? Is it not time for our legislators to review the anti-gang legislation to determine its usefulness or effectiveness? Or is the failing entirely that of the JCF?