EDITORIAL - Attack kidnapping crisis now
The police yesterday disclosed that a young girl who had been kidnapped in Clarendon earlier in the week was freed by her abductors. What the police did not say, but which we assume to be the case, is that a ransom was paid.
This case is not an isolated incident. For some time now the authorities have not talked much about it, but kidnapping for ransom is a growing and lucrative part of the business model of Jamaican criminals.
Only last Wednesday three persons - out of four who were arrested for alleged involvement in the kidnapping of a businessman in St Ann, for whose release $5 million was demanded - were bailed by the courts.
Before that January incident, there was a case in one of Kingston's more exclusive neighbourhoods and another involving the scion of a highly ranked family in Montego Bay, when substantial sums were paid for the release of abductees. In Clarendon, the young son of a politician who was grabbed and held for money, which was paid.
Indeed, by the informal estimates of this newspaper, there have been, over the last year, more than a dozen cases of people being kidnapped for ransom and money paid. Arrests have been few.
Escaped public attention
These cases, and the growing problem of kidnapping for ransom, have largely escaped the public's attention for two reasons. The police tend to ask the press not to report the incidents for fear that publicity might complicate negotiations with the kidnappers and threaten the safety of victims.
The more important reason, perhaps, is that families tend not to report cases until they have either paid the ransom or it becomes clear that they cannot resolve the matter on their own. We would not be surprised if kidnapping is a grossly under-reported and undercounted crime in Jamaica. It is significant that kidnapping incidents do not rate appearance on the police's catalogue of serious crimes.
This brings us back to the matter of families' preference for negotiating themselves with kidnappers and involving the police as a last resort. This represents a lack of trust on two fronts. First is the assumption, widely whispered, that cops are involved in kidnapping rings. The second is the poor record of the police in resolving all kinds of crimes. People do not believe, therefore, that an appeal to the constabulary makes sense and consider as vindication the seeming paucity of arrest of kidnappers.
Yet, outside of murder, few crimes drive societal fear as does kidnapping, as has been discovered by Trinidad and Tobago where the problem is now rampant. Our police, therefore, have a serious task in crimping the problem here before it becomes a major crisis.
Several years ago, an anti-kidnapping team was established, but not much is heard of its work. That group must now to be beefed up, properly trained and motivated to deal with this growing challenge. The public, too, has to be alerted to the dangers of kidnapping.
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