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Calls for more urgency in finding solutions to crime

Published:Thursday | June 9, 2016 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Warren McDonald

President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Warren McDonald is urging national security minister Robert Montague to move urgently to establish a committee on crime comprising key stakeholders.

He told The Gleaner that the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce has been pushing hard for a crime and justice committee that would play a critical role in monitoring issues relating to national security and help to create increased public awareness of efforts to stem the scourge of crime and violence affecting the country.

McDonald argues that the police and the army alone cannot successfully cramp crime in Jamaica, noting that support is needed from a wide cross section of the public.

"What needs to be said clearly is that we are in partnership with the people to try and stem the tide of crime. It's not just more cars and more guns for the security forces. It needs the support and information from the people to deal with the issues."

Lieutenant Commander George Overton, president of the Jamaica Society for Industrial Security, indicated that although it is early days for the new administration, there was need for a greater sense of urgency in taking on the surges in murders.

Police statistics reveal that St James alone has recorded more than 100 murders with less than six months gone in the year. Up to last weekend, police data show that 103 persons have been reported killed in the parish since the start of the year. This represents a 27 per cent spike when compared with the 81 murders recorded for the similar period in 2015.

However, the police statistics indicate that there has been a two per cent decline nationally in the number of persons reported killed.

Both Overton and McDonald were assessing the Ministry of National Security in the first 100 days of the new administration.


However, Overton reasoned that there was a different style of management of the national security portfolio, one in which the minister "pays a commissioner of police to do his job... I tend to believe, and I hope, that behind the scenes he is having dialogue and applying the pressure that needs to be applied. He is carefully proceeding and getting his hands on the steering wheel properly".

Opposition Spokesman on National Security Peter Bunting said his counterpart, Robert Montague, got off to a "rocky start" as murders exceeded 100 for each of the first three months he has held the portfolio.

"The previous few months were averaging about 80 murders. This has probably put him on the back foot as he grasps around for quick responses and solutions, some of which are more gallery-playing than substantive, reintroducing hanging, for example, which is really for public relations value as this will not really take us forward."

Bunting said the national security minister has made some encouraging steps such as maintaining the Unite for Change initiative, which involves the building of a strategic partnerships with all stakeholders.

"My suggestion to him would be to not spend all his time responding to the events of the day but focus on careful policy analysis and let that inform the strategies that he pursues."

He said there was an absence of policy signals from the minister and the Throne Speech was devoid of any direction on the way forward in terms of national security.

However, he acknowledged that Prime Minister Andrew Holness has sought to forge some kind of bi-partisan approach to taking on crime.

"I welcome that and look forward to it being translated into something tangible."