Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Letter of the Day | Don’t broad-brush all in bike gangster crackdown

Published:Monday | March 5, 2018 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The horrendous and repeated incidents of crimes being committed by gangs of criminals who use motorcycles are of deep concern. As stakeholders and motorcyclists ourselves, the Back-to-Basics Motorcycle Safety Mission (BTB) conscientiously supports calls for action on the issue. Well-reasoned strategic action is urgently required.

Over the past few years, many criminals have used motorcycles to commit crimes across Jamaica. Some could hypothesise that nationwide, there could be anywhere from a few hundred to as many as 1,000 such criminals around. There are certainly enough such criminals gravitating towards motorcycles to be an urgent national security problem.

However, the crisis ought to be viewed in its full context. Over the past few years, tens of thousands of Jamaicans have opted to ride motorcycles to earn a legitimate living. From Negril right back to Morant Point, many are legitimately self-employed. We also personally know and have trained hundreds of riders, many of whom are legitimate commercial motorcyclists who ride with large company fleets, holding responsibility for movement that are literally the backbone of billion-dollar companies.

In all iterations, these are riders who utilise motorcycles as an essential part of legitimate activities to feed their families. There are even motorcyclists actively involved in the tourism industry.

 

LEGIT BIKERS AT RISK

 

By some estimates, the population of motorcyclists in Jamaica is between 70,000 and 100,000 active riders. Many motorcyclists have themselves been targeted and murdered by bike killers just like other citizens in Jamaica, often without so much as a news report of the crime. Life means very little in this context.

The country desperately needs solutions to the bike killer and bike robber problems. Useless knee-jerk reactions such as 'bans' and traditional 'crackdowns' only serve to score cheap political points. True organisation is the real key. Strategic solutions must be aggressive and severe in impact on the criminals, but must also be as fair as humanly possible to motorcyclists who are simply trying to earn a legitimate wage. Without such social balance, the likelihood of such anti-crime measures failing is very high.

TARIK ZAWDIE KIDDOE

Founder/chief facilitator

BTB Motorcycle Safety Mission

btbmission@gmail.com