Sectoral Debate Presentations 2018 | Dr Horace Chang: Restoring public order and safety ... securing the nation
Excerpts from the presentation by Dr Horace Chang, minister of national security.
We ended the year 2015 with 1,208 cases of murder, which rose to 1,354 in 2016, and 1,616 in 2017. This worrying trend continued into 2018, with 61 murders recorded between January 1 and January 13, 2018, fourteen more murders when compared to the same period last year.
This 23 per cent increase year-on-year clearly demanded action on the part of the Government to protect Jamaicans. It must be noted that by the end of May, following executive action by this Government, we have seen an eight per cent decrease in major crimes. These measures included new legislative actions, the introduction of the zones of special operations and states of emergency in some geographical areas, changes in leadership resulting in some moderate reduction in crime. We are confident that we can maintain this positive trend; however, more needs to be done, and we will outline some of these actions as we go forward.
Crime has a negative impact on legitimate business and investment as it undermines growth. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime suggests that Jamaica could boost economic growth per capita by 5.5 per cent per year, were we to reduce our homicide rate.
As crime increases, access to financing declines, spending on formal and informal security measures increase and worker productivity declines. In addition, fighting crime diverts the limited economic resources from human development sectors such as health and education. We have seen where violence puts a strain on our health sector and negatively affects the social well-being of our communities.
It is recognised and accepted that crime is the most serious challenge facing our country. In today's Jamaica, violence has become a 'tool of choice' for many, and there is new evidence of suffering every day resulting from this choice. We need as a society to embrace a collaborative strategy and make greater efforts to prevent conflict and promote peace and non-violence within our communities.
In proportion to our population, crime is claiming as many victims as countries with some high-intensity conflicts. At a rate of 54 per 100,000 we were approaching epidemic homicide proportions. It should be noted that parishes like St James with a rate of 150 per 100,000 far exceeded the UN definition of a homicide epidemic. This is unacceptable, Mr Speaker, and this Government will continue to take the required steps to address this serious matter and restore public order.
ISSUE OF ILLEGAL GUNS
Among the primary challenges that we face is the issue of illegal guns. The gun remains the weapon of choice for Jamaican criminals. The JCF Crime Statistics Review indicates that approximately 85 per cent of all homicides in Jamaica involve the use of a firearm. This means that of the over 1,600 murders that took place in 2017, more than 1,300 were perpetrated by the use of a gun. In a small island such as ours, which is not a manufacturer of firearms, it is wholly unacceptable that these figures persist. It must be dealt with decisively.
Most of these firearms are smuggled into the country through our ports of entry (formal and informal). I am speaking now of the infamous guns-for-drugs trade. Indeed, guns and the illegal trade in drugs have formed a symbiotic relationship. The CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy recognised the relationship between illegal drugs and illegal guns as a Tier 1 threat to the region.
POROUS NATURE OF OUR BORDERS
Another issue impacting our crime situation is the porous nature of our borders. It has been highlighted in our National Security Policy that Jamaica has 497 miles of coastline, with 14 legitimate and 145 illegal points of entry, which offer a gateway for guns, ammunition, illegal narcotics as well as uncustomed goods to enter the island.
We cannot make inroads into crime unless we take into account the major challenges of corruption and organised crime. The scourge of corruption is the foundation on which crime is built. Indeed, the World Bank estimates that corruption costs more than five per cent of global GDP annually (US$2.6 trillion) and according to the International Monetary Fund, money laundering equates to between two and five per cent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP); for Jamaica, this is estimated at approximately 2.8 per cent of GDP.
Crime is motivated primarily by profit, as criminals are in the business of making money. We must, therefore, as a country, work to take the profit out of crime.
THE WAY FORWARD
As a Government we will continue working hard to address public order and citizen security for the people of Jamaica. While there is no panacea, this administration has embarked on several strategies which I will now outline. These include a series of activities:
n Operational strategies and institutional changes;
n Policy enhancement; and
n Legislative amendments to improve the regulatory frameworks which are either inadequate, non-existent or outdated.
As it relates to illegal guns, this Government will, in a deliberate way, intensify strategies to combat the illegal trafficking of weapons and ammunition.
Amendments to the Firearms Act have recently been approved by Cabinet, and during this legislative year we will be tabling these amendments in the Houses of Parliament.
The legislative improvements will work in tandem with the process improvements at the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA), which regulates the use of legal weapons and ammunition.
During this financial year, the FLA will introduce online tracking for firearm applications. Additionally, the agency will acquire a Bullettrax Marking Machine to improve the authority's capacity to capture bullet signatures.
The Private Security Regulation Authority Act will be amended to improve the regulatory framework governing the private security industry to ensure appropriate standards for the collaborative work required with the police.
ENHANCING PICA'S CAPACITY
Another critical element of the border architecture is the Passport and Citizenship Agency (PICA). PICA works in a multisectoral manner to ensure that our ports of entry are secure. To support these activities, PICA's capacity was enhanced to improve its monitoring and detection capabilities.
With the introduction of Facial Recognition Software in 2016-17, the agency focused during 2017-18 on service delivery.