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Clarke faces the crime monster - New Area One head reshapes units to target actors of violence

Published:Sunday | June 19, 2016 | 12:00 AMAdrian Frater
Police Commissioner Carl Williams (right) and then National Security Minister Peter Bunting at a scene in Campbellton, Hanover, where six members of one family were killed in an attack police linked to the lottery scam late last year.

Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Warren Clarke is expressing confidence that he has the skill and experience to tame western Jamaica's Hydra-like crime monster.

"Having been here three times, it means I have a collective experience of about five years, it tells me that I understand the terrain ... there are things that we did correctly on my second sojourn that we intend to do again," said Clarke, who was recently transferred to head the Police Area One, which comprises Westmoreland, Hanover, St James, and Trelawny,

"It is a process ... we kept St James murder-free for almost a month in 2013 and we believe we can do it again. I believe if we are committed and get the support of the citizens, it can be done," added Clarke.

Having served two previous stints in the region, Clarke returns to western Jamaica, which now has the dubious distinction of being the nation's crime capital.

It is an area where several bold policing initiatives, including putting soldiers on the streets, have failed to quell the bloodletting, which saw St James registering 217 murders, Westmoreland 105 and Hanover 56 in 2015.




Up to June 4, the police had reported 103 murders in St James, up from 81; Trelawny nine, up from eight; Westmoreland 39, up from 38; while Hanover recorded 13 murders, one fewer than the 14 recorded for the corresponding period last year.

But armed with his previous experience in the region and new strategies to include reshaping the administrative landscape, by breaking down divisions into smaller manageable areas with their own commanders, Clarke is now ready to go after violence producers and their facilitators.

"Having reshaped the administrative landscape, it is now time to target the actors of violence," Clarke told The Sunday Gleaner.

"The persons who are wanted for multiple murders, multiple shootings and other serious crimes will be set aside for special attention ... so will be the people who are facilitators of crime (businesses that benefit from the proceeds of illicit activities)."

Aware of the impact the increased visibility of the police will have on residents, Clarke said he plans to forge a partnership with the various communities with a view of winning both their understanding and support.

"We intend to penetrate communities and families with our message that crime does not pay," said Clarke.

"There are many unfortunate incidents that have occurred when families do not disassociate themselves from criminals ... when there are conflicts, it is the families that suffer the consequences."

While accepting that there is a subtle culture of tolerance to some criminal activities in western Jamaica, especially where lotto scammers flaunt and share their ill-gotten wealth with residents, Clarke said he is confident that his message of 'good over evil' will resonate.

"We understand that we are competing with the gangsters for influence, but we believe we can make ourselves more attractive ... we are a legitimate group ... we are law enforcers ... we are law-abiding and our message is that we are a better option," said Clarke.

The ACP admitted that he is not totally satisfied with the resources at his disposal, but argued that he is confident that the police hierarchy will continue to provide additional resources to meet his needs.




"We are never satisfied with the level of resources. What I am satisfied with is the level of commitment from the High Command and the Government to prioritise our needs on this occasion, and I am looking forward to this kind of support," said Clarke.

"Already, I have got welcome news out of Kingston. We have received approval to repair the vehicles at the garage that needs to be repaired. That is good news and we are looking forward to more support."

In responding to the age-old concern that rogue cops within the ranks of the police are helping to strengthen the hands of criminals, Clarke said he is convinced that leadership with integrity will either cause the 'bad apples' to either change or face dire consequences.

"I am confident that even the police who are undisciplined and oftentimes find themselves on the wrong side of the law will respond to good leadership," said Clarke, who is a 30-year veteran of the force.

"We will be striving to persuade and insist that officers stay on the straight and narrow .... there is a maxim in the military that I embrace ... it states that, 'There are never bad troops, only bad commanders'," added Clarke.

In regard to those business operators who are happily raking in big bucks from lottery scammers, who cannot put their illicit gains into the formal banking sector, Clarke said they, too, would be targeted.

"For too long the facilitators have been getting a free pass ... we are now saying that they are to be careful because we are on the watch and we are coming to get them," said Clarke.

"When people launder money, no legitimate business can compete with them because their objectives are different - one is to make a profit while the other is to try and clean up bad money."

While the idea of having the military working along with the police on the streets in the resort areas has been frowned upon by some tourism interest, Clarke said there are creative ways to address that concern.

"The military presents to us a force multiplied ... they assist with logistics, and while they are not relevant to all aspects of our operations, we are challenging criminals that are armed offensively," said Clarke.

"The military has the capacity to assist us in our planning and our execution ... so they are a partner who we welcome every time ... especially in our bid to get the gangsters, who have taken on a paramilitary character."