We are not entirely unsympathetic to Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington's campaign for new legislation which he says will help him get atop of Jamaica's crisis of crime.
In fact, in this environment of fear - where nearly 1,000 people have already been murdered this year and homicides are up six per cent compared to 2012 - our impulse is to give Mr Ellington anything he wants.
Except that we are not sanguine that Mr Ellington is making the best use of what he already has; that anything more won't be to the police like having a less-than-dexterous handyman who accumulates sophisticated tools and plans projects that are never done. Or, if they are attempted, the result is havoc rather than good.
It is in the context of our first observation that we note the remarks this week by one of Mr Ellington's deputies, Glenmore Hinds, who has responsibility in the constabulary for operations.
With regard to homicides and other major crimes, the police's 'clear up' rate so far this year is around 27 per cent; they may have identified a suspect, or made an arrest.
But Mr Hinds appears not to be overly concerned with that ratio. Because of the unwillingness of witnesses to come forward with statements, he says, the police these days have to employ other lengthier investigative techniques. So, by year end, the clear-up rate will increase.
Our issue here is that for several years now the clear-up rate for major crimes has hovered around 40 per cent.
We are not impressed by that clear-up rate. Neither should Mr Ellington, Mr Hinds nor anyone else be.
Maybe it is the argument of Mr Ellington and company that the police have met an operational and statistical brick wall that is impenetrable to their existing tools. We are not convinced.
Mr Ellington may have determined a legal construct with which to obtain civil injunctions to keep criminal suspects out of their home communities. But what of the balloon effect? Might not these people take their suspected illegal activities elsewhere?
Evidence not obvious
We would expect the police, even within the limits of existing laws, to have been using their alternative, more sophisticated investigative techniques to throw the book at criminals, if not for the most obvious crimes, the provable ones. The evidence, or outcomes, Mr Hinds, are not obvious.
Mr Ellington's intent of depriving suspects of drug-smuggling and gun crimes, of illegally gained proceeds to pay for their legal defence is appreciated. Our caution would be that we must be careful to preserve people's presumption of innocence and their right to a fair hearing, part of which is legal representation.
We are aware of the rise in street crime, including intimidation and extortion under the cover of vehicle windscreen cleaning at stop lights and intersections. Yet, anti-vagrancy-type laws ought not be abused to victimise the poor.
The bottom line: as we contemplate new laws, Mr Ellington would bolster his case by proving that he is truly at his limit with what he has.
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