Mon | Sep 26, 2022

Civil society not surprised by low confidence in commish, minister

Published:Sunday | August 14, 2022 | 12:13 AMTyrone Reid - Associate Editor - Investigations

“The heavy-handed approach not only strips citizens of their fundamental rights but practically has no real, sustained impact on crime”: Mickel Jackson.
“The heavy-handed approach not only strips citizens of their fundamental rights but practically has no real, sustained impact on crime”: Mickel Jackson.

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang (left) and Major General Antony Anderson, commissioner of police, have both come under fire for the current murder wave.
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang (left) and Major General Antony Anderson, commissioner of police, have both come under fire for the current murder wave.

“I am not surprised that large majorities have this view of the two but only that it and my own view nearly coincide”: Horace Levy.
“I am not surprised that large majorities have this view of the two but only that it and my own view nearly coincide”: Horace Levy.
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At least two civil society advocates are not surprised by the overwhelmingly high number of Jamaicans who have expressed low confidence in the country’s national security minister and the commissioner of police. Horace Levy is one of them. “I am...

At least two civil society advocates are not surprised by the overwhelmingly high number of Jamaicans who have expressed low confidence in the country’s national security minister and the commissioner of police.

Horace Levy is one of them.

“I am not surprised that large majorities have this view of the two, but only that it and my own view nearly coincide. The basis of these views is that murders stay high and is worsening, and state/security commit 11-13 per cent of killings, the highest in the world. Clearly, they don’t know what to do, though they talk much (like Dr Horace Chang) or are charming (like Major General Antony Anderson),” Levy shared with The Sunday Gleaner.

He was responding to the findings of an RJRGLEANER Communications Group-commissioned Don Anderson poll, which revealed that 93 per cent of Jamaicans say they have little or no confidence in the country’s national security minister, while 91 per cent expressed little or no confidence in the police commissioner.

According to the former Peace Management Initiative (PMI) point man, a number of other factors also contribute to the dismal state of affairs.

“Soldiers are mirroring police and citizens have lost respect for them. Courts accept states of emergency as a crime-fighting tool, which is contrary to the Constitution. Cases against gangs fall apart. And corruption in the police force seems common and now own criminal gangs,” said Levy, who, along with the PMI team, led successful initiatives to interrupt the cycle of violence in several inner-city communities across the island before funding was pulled from the programme a few years ago.

As the crime chiefs continue to grapple with controlling the country’s spiralling murder rate, for the second consecutive year, Insight Crime ranked Jamaica as having the highest murder rate in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2021, with 1,463 homicides translating to 49.4 per 100,000 people – an increase from the 46.5 per 100,000 for 2020, when 1,301 homicides were recorded.

Jamaicans have been demanding tangible results, and human rights lobby Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) said the poll findings come as no surprise for “those who are leading the crime reduction efforts, given the alarmingly high crime rate”.

Mickel Jackson, executive director of JFJ, described the Government’s legislative agenda as being heavily focused on pursuing paramilitary approaches that can only have a short-term impact.

“The heavy-handed approach not only strips citizens of their fundamental rights but practically has no real, sustained impact on crime. What we have, therefore, seen is a reduction in crime in one community, but then a migration in crime to another, and the overall increase in murder. This ill-advised legislative [mis]adventure then creates a police force that is overworked and overburdened when they have to work long hours in poor working conditions in SOE (state of emergency) and ZOSO (zone of special operation) communities, without fair compensation,” the JFJ head shared with The Sunday Gleaner.

MISSING PREVENTION COMPONENT

She also questioned whether enough of the national security ministry’s budget is actually going towards the social intervention programmes of the ZOSOs.

“What inroads have been made in targeting at-risk youths who are joining gangs? How many at-risk in-school youth have been sensitised? What are some of the income-generating programmes within these communities? Without these interventions, crime reduction will not be sustained, as the prevention component is missing,” Jackson argued.

She also noted that successive administrations are seemingly caught in a revolving cycle of public announcements, the most recent being a promise to overhaul the Domestic Violence Act. This promise is not new, she said, and is a move civil society organisations have been clamouring for over the years.

“A Joint Select Committee was established to review the Sexual Offences Act, along with Offences Against the Person Act, the Domestic Violence Act and the Child Care and Protection Act. Despite comprehensive feedback from civil society groups such as JFJ and a 2018 report of the recommendations, to date, nothing has been done by the Government, but yet there is another announcement to review some of these same pieces of legislation,” Jackson lamented.

She said that the JFJ stands ready to lend support to the Government in the war on crime.

“JFJ offers its service and can provide human-rights training to law enforcement. We also will be undertaking community interventions to educate people about their rights and responsibilities. This initiative will also see us tackling domestic violence through our legal support services. We stand ready to lend support but the Government should also stand ready to truly listen,” Jackson stated.

tyrone.reid@gleanerjm.com