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Go high-tech in crime fight, says UWI professor

Published:Sunday | August 27, 2017 | 12:00 AMJason Cross

University of The West Indies Professor Anthony Clayton, while expressing agreement with National Security Minister Robert Montague, who, last week, said that the Jamaica Constabulary Force was woefully short of members, said that the problem is far more complicated than sagging numbers and requires a much more sophisticated approach.

"Jamaica is faced with two major problems: guns and gangs," said Montague. "If we don't have enough police officers in the streets, we cannot confront the gangs and we won't be able to lock off our borders."

Yesterday, Clayton told The Gleaner that because the crime situation has got "absolutely mad", simply increasing the numbers in the police force cannot be the way forward.

"We live in a very high-crime society, but we get used to it. It's nothing to you until you realise that we've got a homicide rate that is roughly 10 times that in the United States, and they think they've got problems!" said Clayton.

"(Increasing the number of police in the force) is only one factor. Clearly, you need the numbers, but it is also very much about the calibre of officers that you have and the quality of their training and the technology and equipment they can access. Look at a typical cop in a big city in the US like the New York Police Department, and you can see that level of technology. The way in which every crime in the city is uploaded is immediate, with all details so every cop everywhere can see what is going on. They are using predictive analytics software. All the police get this information before the rest of the public. It is quite often that people are apprehended in hours," said Clayton.




He highlighted that it has taken too long for members of the force to get with the programme and begin to accept newer crime-fighting technologies. In all this, Clayton pinpointed that strong leadership could do the trick, despite the tendency of many within the system to shun reform.

"Leadership is essential in this issue. You have to have somebody who is going to say to the police officers, 'Look, as of such and such date, we are going to start using this new system. Everybody has got three months to familiarise themselves with it, and we'll have training sessions on it, and when we get to this date, we are going over to the new system and stop using the old.'"

Clayton continued: "We could be investing in things like software and knitting together our information systems so we can have that kind of capability (like in the US). A lot of what we need to do in terms of technology is actually not that expensive as a lot of people fear. We have to stop the force from using things like station diaries to record crimes. Why don't we get them all to download an appropriate app? These apps do exist because they have been developed for other police and military forces. There is just this incredible unwillingness to start using these modern systems."