Engage communities to cut crime, says British high commissioner
Until businesses, government and communities stop turning their backs on deprived areas, the crime situation that threatens to derail the island's economic growth will remain unchanged, says British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad.
"Things won't change. They have to engage the communities," Ahmad told The Sunday Gleaner during an interview in Montego Bay, St James, last week.
He commended the move by Government to establish and construct buildings in downtown Kingston, as well as companies that hold art festivals and other events in these areas, for helping to turn things around.
"You can't say 'it is too dangerous, you can't go there (downtown)'," he argued, adding that if foreign direct investors are terrified, they will not invest, and at the same time the county cannot have a tourism industry in which, whenever visitors are coming out of their all-inclusives, they are coming on a tour bus.
Currently, many persons shy away from places like downtown Montego Bay, which has become one of the deadliest cities in the Western Hemisphere because of the number of persons murdered in the parish in the past year.
FEAR OF VISITING DOWNTOWN
"I am afraid to walk or do business downtown, so I pass the town centre and instead do business at Fairview," said Dawn Campbell, who has lived in the Second City for over 40 years.
Despite Campbell's fear of visiting the town centre that she has known for most of her life, the British High commissioner is convinced there is hope.
"For the United States, Canada and the UK, on all the programmes we run, crime, law enforcement and security are the biggest areas of our focus," he said.
Ahmad noted that Prime Minister Andrew Holness has asked the UK to prioritise homicides, and they are working directly with the police to help them operationally, with intelligence gathering, to ensure the evidence holds up in court, as well as the Ministry of Justice in relation to the use of videos and digitising the collection of court material.
"We are looking at transnational crime in a bigger way, and there has actually been a marked decrease in this area," he stated, noting that the Americans are more focused on lottery scamming, which is tapering off, due to the fact that most prospective victims are becoming more aware.
According to Ahmad, there is a huge amount of work to be done, but crime, in terms of terrorism, has forced his country to reprioritise what it does and how much it spends helping others to fight crime.
"We also have our own drug issues."