Editorial | Making Jamaica safe
As sector ministers reveal details of their plans for the budget year, this newspaper, like our readers, anticipates that National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang will present to the country a raft of new ideas in crime prevention and detection, aimed at keeping Jamaicans safe.
Dr Chang is scheduled to make his presentation to the Sectoral Debate in Gordon House on May 25, and we hope that he comes with a credible, thoughtful plan that will invest in new technology and bold initiatives that have shown success in other high-crime countries.
COVID-19 infections, curfews and quarantines, which mandate people to stay at home, have not put a dent in the level of criminal activities, at least, so it seems. So, at the moment, Jamaicans are essentially living through two crises, a public health crisis wrought by COVID-19 and a crime crisis, caused by well-armed criminals.
How, for example, is it possible that criminals have been able to steal more than 500 street lights in the first four months of this year, according to a complaint from the light and power company?
At the same time, murderous criminals continue to flood our communities and streets with violence and assault little girls and womenfolk.
From daily reports, it is obvious that there is more crime in this country than the police force can reasonably handle.
In February 2020, Dr Chang announced a change in structure of police divisions in Kingston and St Andrew. Under the new arrangements, St Thomas would be included to enable crime-fighters to have better communication between them.
At the time, a stinging response came from parliamentary colleague, the rambunctious Everald Warmington, who said the police should be conducting detailed searches to find guns and shutdown gangs, instead of shutting down wakes and parties. Even though his colleagues did not support his declaration that he would prevent the police from shutting down wakes, it was obvious that this was a cry of frustration which many in this country are feeling.
For some time, the island’s stash of illegal weapons has been of concern to law-abiding citizens, and it has got progressively worse. We recall that former National Security Minister Robert Montague announced that Jamaica would acquire sniffer dogs to help in the detection of guns and ammunition. Our research could not confirm whether the dogs were ever acquired. But sniffer dogs, which can be rented, are one of the new, reliable trends in law enforcement.
It is patently clear that the decades-old crime-fighting measures, which are tweaked from time to time, are not enough to interrupt the cycle of violence that is plaguing Jamaica in 2021. The Jamaica Constabulary Force needs to take a giant leap into the 21st century and embrace technology.
Admittedly, it is not an easy task and it requires funding. But if the Government agrees that making Jamaicans safe is their priority, then Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke will not need much nudging to understand that the resources have to be found to accomplish this transformation.
Speaking in a radio interview at the start of the year, Dr Chang had this to say:
“Crime-fighting is not a lot of new things to be done, you know. It’s a matter of keeping the intensity up and providing the police force with the requisite tools, both physical and legislatively, to deal with what is a(n) endemic, chronic problem in Jamaica.”
So minister, we wait to hear how you plan to use technology-based measures to complement existing crime-fighting measures.