Fitz Jackson | Our crime challenge going into 2018
Regrettably, 2017 was not a good year for Jamaica and Jamaicans. As at December 30, 2017, more than 1,600 Jamaicans were murdered and 1,469 were shot and came close to being killed. This represents just under 300 more Jamaicans murdered than in 2016. The situation has got significantly worst over the last two years, with nothing done by the Andrew Holness-led administration. The Holness administration single 'new' initiative, the zone of special operations (ZOSO), has proven not to make one bit of a difference. The Opposition, based on its experience, cautioned the Government that ZOSO would not bear the desired results. The Government did not listen, but arrogantly proceeded along a path to nowhere.
Our crime problem is further compounded in the cesspool of corruption that has characterised the Holness administration over the past two years. The basic requirement of police mobility is compromised by a policy to provide used vehicles for the Jamaica Constabulary Force 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week operation. This is a first for any police force in the world, and at a time when our country is going one of the worst murder epidemic. This is the embodiment of recklessness, inexperience and arrogance. Not even the policy of supplying used vehicles for the police should be allowed to pass the Cabinet doors, much less be signed and sealed by the prime minister and his fellow Cabinet members.
The ongoing impasse with the police wage negotiations is unsettling amid a national crisis. Yet another identified problem in the crime-fighting matrix is being allowed to drag and drift while more and more Jamaicans are murdered at an alarming and increasing rate. Solution: The prime minister needs to stop the childish behaviour in his office and have the matter resolved with alacrity. Help is available if he feels overwhelmed. Others have resolved similar situations amicably before.
Though not for the first time, we do have a crisis on our hands, and the matter of crime must be treated as such. The jury is in, and we have the verdict: the approach and attitude of the Holness administration in dealing with our crime challenge is not working.
More Jamaicans are being killed daily and with a brazenness we have never seen before in recent decades. This is not a matter of opinion. The Opposition is once again repeating the call for the Government to isolate the major hotspots such as St James and the Kingston Metro Area, including St Catherine, which amounts to 1,030 (64.4 per cent) of the 1,612 murders committed in 2017. It cannot be beyond the Government to mobilise the material and human resources within and outside the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force, locally and internationally, to nab the identified gang lords and purveyors of murder and fear, along with their collaborators.
None must be spared! These criminal perpetrators must be made to fear the power and force of the State without a speck of doubt! The monetary price for this investment must be a priority expenditure. The benefits to be accrued will be shared by all, both in the immediate and medium to long term. The individuals causing mayhem and our people almost becoming numb to murders must be jolted now, while a medium- to long-term crime reduction strategy is developed without undue delay.
There is a converging consensus that the long-term solution and approach requires all hands on board. Not just Government hands or opposition hands, but inclusive of just about all stakeholder groups and individuals who will become the ultimate owners and defenders of this approach. However, this crime-reduction project requires leadership which the legally constituted government is obliged to provide. The Opposition now restates its readiness to make its contribution to this properly thought out, organised approach. Today is always the right time to do the right thing. It is not too late for us to stop doing what is not working. Let us be more matured and bold. We can make 2018 a good year, the year we started to do better for our country's sake and our collective selves.
- Fitz Jackson is opposition spokesman on national security.