IN THE 1970s when politically-aligned enforcers roamed Kingston's ghettos, Keith 'Trinity' Gardner was their most feared nemesis in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). To criminals and law-abiding citizens alike, he was the archetypal street cop.
Fast-forward 30 years and Gardner, now assistant commissioner of police, is buckling up for another crack at the bad guys. Two weeks ago, Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas announced that he was one of 10 senior officers who would be assigned to monitor some of Jamaica's most crime-ridden areas.
The officers, including two senior superintendents, are expected to take up their assignments in early April.
ACP Gardner will lead operations at Area One which covers the parishes of Trelawny, St. James, Hanover and Westmoreland.
Along with Gardner, Superintendent Warren Clarke will head up the St. James division. Clarke has an outstanding record in divisional command and is seen as one of the force's brightest minds. He has led the JCF in St. Mary, St. Thomas, Portland and Clarendon in the past.
It is the second time in his 33-year career with the JCF that Gardner will be sent to the west, the first being a 10-month stint in 1980 when he was a detective sergeant.
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He is aware that things have changed considerably. "Back then the gangs were fragmented but from what I gather they are definitely more organised," he said.
Now 52 and his gun-toting days long past, ACP Gardner says he plans to use conventional methods to combat crime in the west.
"My approach is to consult with the various stakeholders and not just the business sector," he told The Sunday Gleaner last week. "The inner cities must be approached if we are to deal with the intolerable crime situation."
Admitted to the Jamaican Bar in 2004, the years have seemingly mellowed Gardner who has thinning grey hair and a middle-age paunch. The desk in his office at the commissioner's headquarters is cluttered with books, one dealing with the rights of law enforcement officers and another examining urban development and poverty.
The once-feared Trinity, who battled notorious badmen like Dennis 'Copper' Bart, says he prefers a scientific approach to crime-fighting. He uses intelligentsia buzz words like paradigm and insists that community policing is the way to go to end crime in Jamaica.
"While I have an idea about the approach that will be taken in Area One, it is not cast in stone. I plan to be consul-tative," he said. "One cannot go into an area without observing; there's got to be a scientific approach. First, we formulate a model with the stakeholders, test it out and if it works we apply it. If it doesn't, we go back to stage one."
St. James is the most violent of the four parishes in Area One. Approxi-mately 104 persons were killed in homicides there in 2003 and over 120 in 2004. Some of the more violent incidents in Jamaica during the past three years took place in communities such as Farm Heights, Flankers, Glendevon, Norwood and Rose Heights.
Winston Dear, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce, agrees with ACP Gardner that the police working with hardened communities is critical to beating crime in his town.