Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter
The Government's latest anti-gang legislation is being dismissed on the grounds that it is rife with racism and classism and meant to suppress the nation's poor youths.
In a letter to the editor of this newspaper yesterday, board member of the Peace Management Initiative and sociology lecturer, Horace Levy, argued that the Suppression of Criminal Organisations Act, 2013, will fail to put a dent in criminal activities, but will, instead, promulgate the long-time tradition of policing along race and class lines.
In the letter titled Leave Race, Class Biases out of Crime-Fighting Strategies, he posited the view that "this anti-gang law is part of an approach to crime and violence that has ruled Jamaica for the past 50 years, a strategy of suppression or repression. It is consistent with Jamaica's race/class divisions."
Levy argued that in recent time, the police force has become even more militarised with an annual average of 245 fatalities at the hands of the police over the last seven years.
Referring to reports of police officers issuing threats to community members, wearing masks on operations, and taking issue with the powers granted to the Independent Commission of Investigations, Levy noted, "one cannot but conclude that the suppressive approach has failed to stem the tide of murder and shooting."
When The Gleaner contacted Police Commissioner Owen Ellington's office for a response to the arguments advanced by Levy, we were told to contact the Constabulary Communication Network (CCN) for a response.
But CCN head, Deputy Superintendent Steve Brown, spared little time to express that the police had no time to address Levy's concerns.
"We will not respond to Mr Horace Levy. We have more important things to do," Brown said matter-of-factly.
However, Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding said care has been taken to ensure that this piece of legislation is not discriminatory and that the Anti-gang Act will form a critical part of the crime-fighting strategy.
"Legislation that targets criminal organisations is a necessary part of the crime-fighting strategy," Golding said.
Adding that this Act will not solve the crime problems, he noted that "care has been taken in developing this bill to distinguish groups organised for serious crimes from those that are not in the business of criminal activities."
He said the anti-gang legislation does not provide the police with any new powers and that Levy's concerns along with those presented by other lobby groups such as Jamaicans for Justice are under review and will be taken into consideration.