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Editorial: Do the intelligence outfits work?

Published:Tuesday | July 21, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Carl Williams' announced tactic of increasing to 80 per cent the proportion of his police personnel on operational duty, in an effort to staunch this year's surge in homicides, is not to be argued with. Having more police personnel on the ground dominating areas that might otherwise be occupied by criminals will clearly have a deterrent effect on crime.

Commissioner Williams' plan means that an additional 1,200 of the approximately 12,000 members of the constabulary will now be in the field or more directly engaged in front-line efforts against crime, rather than doing routine desk jobs. Until recently, by the police's estimates, up to three out of every 10 members of the force would be office-bound.

Two hundred of the newly freed personnel have been dispatched to the parish of St James, in Jamaica's northwest, where there have been more than 120 murders, or around 20 per cent of all murders in Jamaica since January. If the current trajectory holds, St James, with other western parishes, will account for the bulk of what recent trends suggest will be a 40 per cent hike in murders in 2015, after last year's 19 per cent decline.

Anyone who follows these things understands that the reversal was possible and even likely, notwithstanding the approximately one-third drop in homicides since the 2010 security operation in Tivoli Gardens that eroded gangster Christopher Coke's criminal and subversive infrastructure.

The shock of Tivoli Gardens, for a time, forced some of the criminal enterprises and assorted badmen underground. But the fundamental

drivers of murder were not dismantled - and not only the social and economic circumstances that enhance the likelihood of crime. There is little evidence that the flow of guns into Jamaica has diminished. Nor does it seem that criminal gangs were, or are, being substantially degraded. Those that were under press have been quick to reconstitute, or reconfigure, themselves.


unsuccessful info gathering


This, in the circumstances, raises significant questions for the security forces and their intelligence arms. The police invest a fair bit of the resources in an entity called the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB). So, too, does the Jamaica Defence Force, via the Military Intelligence Unit (MIU). We presume that these agencies clandestinely gather significant amounts of information on Jamaican citizens.

It is not unreasonable to expect that a good part of that effort would, or should, be concentrated where the requirement is greatest: on the criminals who create mayhem in the society. But neither the NIB nor the MIU appears to have been particularly successful in this enterprise.

The police, with seemingly great certitude, often trot out data on gangs and their areas of operations. But they appear incapable of preventing the gangs from acting with impunity. We can only assume that they lack actionable intelligence. The police's occupying of ground is good. A more lasting impact, however, would be if gangs were infiltrated, evidence gathered on their activities, and their leaders and members convicted and carted off to prison. That depends on the efficacy of the intelligence apparatus.