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MoBay Chamber boss calls for coalition to tackle rising crime

Published:Wednesday | July 3, 2019 | 12:29 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor
Janet Silvera
Janet Silvera

Western Bureau:

While not slighting the current crime-fighting measures, businesswoman and journalist Janet Silvera, the new president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI), thinks a national coalition is needed to address Jamaica’s crime problem, which has spawned 675 murders since the start of the year.

Speaking against the background of the situation in St James, which has seen 68 murders between January 1 and June 29 this year, in comparison to the 51 during the corresponding period last year – albeit with a public state of emergency (SOE), a zone of special operations (ZOSO) in Mt Salem and Operation Restore Pride in downtown Montego Bay – Silvera says the situation is quite concerning.

“I am extremely concerned because we don’t wish to go back to where we are coming from,” said Silvera, in reference to situations like the record 334 murders in the parish in 2017, which prompted the first SOE in January 2018.

Based on the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) Periodic Serious Crime Review for January 1 to June 29, 2019, St James is one of two western parishes which saw an increase in murders since the start of the year. Trelawny, which was the region’s most peaceful parish last year with 12 murders in the period under review, has moved up to 15 this year.

Like the other stakeholders, who have endorsed the SOE, the ZOSO and Operation Restore Paradise, Silvera thinks other measures are needed and his batting for a national coalition on crime as well as measures to address the trust deficit between the authorities and the various communities.

“We cannot have SOEs and ZOSOs forever,” said Silvera, who is a native of St James and has fond memories of when Montego Bay was popularly referred to as the ‘Friendly City’.

“We need a national coalition on crime – a coalition that includes the communities that are being impacted,” she said. “We need to forget about the party stripes (politics) because at the end of the day, families are hurting.”

However, she added: “Before a coalition is possible, we have to fix the trust deficit. It cannot be built without a level of trust.”

Silvera is fully supportive of the recent stance taken by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), which wants to be in on the discussions to develop strategies to fight the crime monster.

“I support the PSOJ president’s stance that decisions and responses to crime cannot be the job of the State only. These can’t be done in a vacuum, so it is high time – in fact, critical – that the business community is asked to sit around the same table as Government and Opposition to find solutions,” she said.