EDITORIAL - Smarter policing pays off
The onset of the new year has been greeted by the good news that crime is going down in Jamaica. Its the kind of news many have longed to hear for several years as the population has consistently cited crime and violence as the greatest deterrent to the countrys progress in various opinion polls.
Admittedly, the 1,005 reported murders in 2014 are way too high for a country of 2.7 million, but it is far better than the alternative. For victims of violence whose families have been ripped apart by murder and other criminal acts, it may be hard to accept. But the numbers are there to provide the evidence.
Encouragingly, the bar has been raised with double-digit reductions recorded in every category of serious and violent crime for the year past, and expectations are high that the police will build on these results and perform even better in 2015.
Even though each brutal murder reported in the news and every violent incident help to shape perception that crime is out of control, the reality is, murders have dropped 16 per cent, shootings are down 12 per cent, rape has fallen by 23 per cent and aggravated assault by 17 per cent.
In commending Police Commissioner Carl Williams and the men and women of the Force, National Security Minister Peter Bunting made special reference to the 54 per cent reduction in police killings. This is commendable because charges of police brutality and excesses have marred the relationship between many inner-city communities and the police.
What accounts for this better-than-average performance by the police? Criminologists and commentators will no doubt be studying these figures in the days and weeks ahead. In the meantime, Mr Bunting has suggested that smarter and better policing is the main reason for this success. He pointed to his ministrys Unite for Change initiative, which emphasises a partnership approach which has helped to create safer streets in some of the capitals toughest neighbourhoods.
We have observed that the police have also reaped success in dulling the lottery scam, with various arrests being made across the island. There are indications that scamming activities are still being carried on, but certainly not with the intensity of previous years.
Although the minister did not mention it, the seamless merger of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Island Special Constabulary Force appears to have boosted the morale of the police and made them more flexible in deployment, so that they have become more visible in high-trafficked urban areas.
Lets also not discount the value of leadership. Mr Bunting, a successful businessman, is accustomed to working to achieve good results and setting and meeting targets. We assume that, after a shaky start at the helm of the national security ministry, he has brought his own results-oriented style to bear on his portfolio.
Human nature being what it is, these good results may create some complacency. This would be a mistake. Not only should the police be encouraged to continue its hard work, but citizens should fully participate in the effort. Communities must demonstrate zero tolerance for violence and not provide succour for criminals. Mr Bunting also acknowledged the support that various citizens groups have contributed to crime fighting.
We urge the police to continue to apply the same prescription and the Government to ensure that the police have adequate resources to help them carry out their job more effectively and efficiently. Violence ultimately destroys a nation, so the investment in crime prevention and crime control is worth it.
He acknowledged the contribution of the Church, schools, civil-society groups, and citizens of goodwill, to the significant reduction.
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