Sun | Jul 22, 2018

Excerpts from PM's speech at Guardsman Group's Security Forum

Published:Tuesday | May 16, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Kenneth S. Benjamin (left) Executive Chairman Guardsman Group gives a listening ear to Prime Minister Andrew Holness during the Our Nation's Security, A private and Sector Partnership forum at the Grand Caribbean Suite (Knutsford Court Hotel) on Thursday, May 11, 2017.
Kenneth S. Benjamin (right) Executive Chairman Guardsman Group gives and Prime Minister Andrew Holness making their way to the Guardsman Group Our Nation's Security, A private and Sector Partnership forum at the Grand Caribbean Suite (Knutsford Court Hotel) on Thursday, May 11, 2017.

The unfortunate reality is that criminal networks have become more ruthless, organised, and sophisticated. In a 2017 study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), it was estimated that Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) accounts for 9% of the world's population but contributes nearly one-third of its homicide victims, making it the most violent region outside of war zones. Six out of 10 robberies in the region involve violence, 90% of murders go unresolved, and prisons are the most overcrowded in the world. In fact, Caribbean citizens are estimated as being three times more likely to be affected by gun crimes than other places in the world.

The impact of this reality has had social and economic implications for LAC. In the same 2017 report, it was estimated that the direct annual cost of crime and violence was $261 billion, or 3.55 % of GDP, approximately the amount the region invests in infrastructure. Though it may sound like an extraordinary figure, it has been described as conservative and does not include indirect costs such as changes in behaviour due to fear of crime, or the impact of crime on the health of persons.

The cost of crime continues to be documented for its debilitating effect on growth and development, and crime itself has been identified as Jamaica's primary public-safety concern.

The country's security apparatus has therefore sought to continue its pursuit of effective responses to the proliferation of gangs, domestic and transnational organised criminal networks, while noting that emerging threats such as terrorism, cybercrimes and the impact of shifting foreign-policy agendas are fast becoming present dangers.

Increasingly, there is recognition that this environment cannot be positively affected in an impactful and sustainable way unless there is a shift to a new paradigm on Public Security. The concept of Public Security is complex, multi-dimensional and requires cross-ministerial and cross-sectoral inclusion for long-term and meaningful solutions. It requires purposeful partnership with the private sector and civil society to meet the current challenges. There must be a commitment to responsible statehood and proactive citizenship in achieving public safety through expanded investment in security and cooperation and synergy across sectors.


The Importance of Partnership


It is within this context that the importance of partnership must be underscored. The institutions of governance across the domains of the State (Government, civil society and the private sector) must work together to contribute to economic growth and the creation of a secure society through collaboration and cooperation.

In addition to their role in job creation for over 23,000 Jamaicans, the Private Security industry is an essential component of the national security framework providing value; including protection of access control points, employees, clients, communities, homes and corporate assets; and indeed as protectors of national industries.

It is evident that the industry is eager, and steps are being taken to:

a. Continue increasing professional standards that are consistent across the sector;

b. Ensure that the perception of security officer positions transition from jobs to careers: making officers more effective and invested in their positions,

c. Perform recruitment procedures to ensure that the integrity of the service remains above reproach, and,

d. Continue to lobby for benefits that will enable security officers to better provide for themselves and their families.

It is of note that the Ministry of National Security worked with Guardian Life and the Private Security Regulation Authority to design a health insurance policy so that security guards may be better able to take care of their health and the health of their families.


Strengthening the Dialogue


Importantly, as the Government pursues energetic initiatives to improve citizen security and public safety, the partnership with the private security industry is accepted as being a critical part of the process. The relationship must increasingly evolve to one which is more integrated and interwoven into a system of national preparedness and response to varying threats. The Private Security Industry is critical as:

1. Sensors who can passively detect criminal activity and threats.

2. First responders.

3. Vital support for state security.

Dialogue and exchange in a systematic way will be ongoing to ensure that the partnership results in meaningful discussions regarding the development of a national counter-terrorism policy, and likewise, the development of national contingency plans. The role and the responsibilities of all stakeholders will be known, agreed, and understood, and, therefore. the input of all stakeholders is essential.