Wed | Dec 8, 2021

Editorial | Target those who enable crime

Published:Saturday | March 30, 2019 | 12:00 AM

The revelations coming out of the Supreme Court over the last few weeks have given the country a glimpse into how the dark, criminal underworld operates and exposed some of the people who have apparently enabled gangs in their agenda of brutality and mayhem.

There may be an attitude of disdain towards taking the words of gang members, however, there is a well-worn adage often repeated by Jamaicans, which goes like this: “If fish deh a river bottom and tell you say alligator have gum boil, believe him.”

While we are not here to dissect the various testimonies, we need to understand the nature of the violence that confronts us as we strive to cauterise this seemingly intractable problem, which continues to be a scar on this nation’s face.

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, as he digested reports of more chilling murders in St James this week, sounded like a defeated man with no solutions at hand. Yes, Jamaica has been gripped by a gun culture, and it will require tough solutions to unravel it. This gun violence has besieged several communities, leaving residents in constant fear.

Crime thrives in an environment where there are persons enabling and protecting the criminals. This can occur because of fear or plain greed. Professionals, including doctors, attorneys-at-law, accountants, and the very police, sometimes assist the criminals to carry out their activities.

The growing menace of criminal gangs is recognised as a threat to public safety, and there have been many heated debates about the causes of crime and where to look for solutions.

We submit that crime must be fought on all fronts. So far, the dominant approach has been to target the trigger man, and if witnesses are available, he will end up in court, and there may be a conviction. But even if the police were to be given all the resources they need, including beefed up numbers, this may not achieve the objective of rooting out the criminals.

ENFORCE THE LAWS

This is not the time for hand-wringing. Instead, it is time to directly target the external actors who provide a gateway for criminals to get their ill-gotten gains into the legitimate economy.

We already have legal mechanisms, such as the Proceeds of Crime Act, under which professionals are obliged to report suspicious activities. It requires enforcement of these legal remedies to interrupt the enablers who facilitate criminals in their various schemes.

We just need to think about the corrosive effect of the lottery scam, which has claimed hundreds of lives in western Jamaica. Crimes such as scamming tend to be marginalised by sympathetic community members because they are seen as non-violent. So, professionals, including the police, may have simply ignored some of the red flags of suspicious activities.

From all indications, businesses benefited from these scammers who spent their ill-gotten loot freely but at what social and economic cost to the country?

For example, motorcycle sales in Westmoreland skyrocketed with the good fortune of the scammers. The story was told of dozens of abandoned motorbikes that were piled up at a police station. The owners, rather than regularise their status, simply abandoned them and bought new ones.

The tough task facing law enforcement is for them to detect, investigate, gather evidence, and prosecute these enablers with links to criminals. They have the tools to do so and should use them.