Sun | May 16, 2021

Funding woes hurt crime fight – PMI

Published:Thursday | January 28, 2021 | 12:33 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter

Underfunding has crippled the outreach of one of Jamaica’s most prominent peacekeeping organisations, threatening to worsen the crime crisis in St James, where there has been a 350 per cent increase in murders in 2021.

The grim assessment was made on Wednesday before a parliamentary committee reviewing proposed new legislation governing zones of special operations (ZOSOs) that represent a mix of paramilitary might and social improvement in violence-plagued communities.

The Peace Management Initiative (PMI), one of three bodies invited to give recommendations before the joint select committee, said it was running a deficit of $15 million.

Programme coordinator Baldwin Lindo blamed the Government’s withdrawal of funding through the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) as one of the factors severely hampering its activities.

The PMI reported that it was still receiving a government subvention, in place since 2004, of $1.2 million monthly, representing a little less than half the social workers’ budget for that cycle.

“What the board has decided to do is to keep these peacekeepers within these communities and reduce the stipend that they used to get,” Lindo said on Wednesday.

The peacekeepers were reportedly being paid $40,000, and after the merger with the CSJP, $80,000.

The revelation was made in response to questions from committee member Phillip Paulwell on the organisation’s budget and how its operations were impacted, especially in western Jamaica.

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has discounted the value of some social-work groups, saying that their alliances with gangsters compromised the intervention.

More boots on ground

PMI data analyst André Reid said that more violence interrupters were needed on the ground to maintain peace and stability.

“One of the major recommendations is increasing the number of persons we have on the ground within communities like Mount Salem that even after ZOSO, when the security forces would have left the community, we would have persons on the ground to work with the PMI to let us know what is happening in each section of the community,” Reid told the committee.

It was disclosed by the PMI that the CSJP had contributed between $50 million and $70 million to its operations over time.

“We are funding the peacekeepers, the supervisor, and social worker out of the savings that the PMI had over the years,” said Lindo.

“Based on what we have, at the end of this year, we will have no funds at all, except what we will be getting from Government on a monthly basis.”

The PMI is no longer spearheading social interventions in the Mount Salem ZOSO in St James because of the cut in financing.

The PMI is currently operating in four St James communities, namely Anchovy, Cambridge, Granville, and Lilliput. The funding woes have halved the number of communities in which the PMI maintained its presence, with Adelphi, Canterbury, Flanker, Norwood, and Salt Spring no longer within its coverage.

St James recorded 128 murders in 2020, around 20 per cent fewer than the toll for 2019. The parish has tallied 18 murders up to January 27 this year compared to four for the corresponding period in 2020.