Sun | Jan 23, 2022

Letter of the Day | Take a new approach to fighting crime

Published:Thursday | May 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM


It's on the table again, put there by a very reputable source, none other than the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). I am talking about Jamaica's approach to crime. The IDB study is declaring that the approach taken in Jamaica is lopsided, very badly so. This is a view that some of us in Jamaica have been pushing for quite a few years but with little success.

The IDB study is urging that a comprehensive scientific approach be taken and argues from such science as exists in the matter. It is saying that contrary to recognised good practice elsewhere, the approach in Jamaica overemphasises POLICING - numbers and field operations - with corresponding underplay of other crucial factors, repression over prevention.

One of those undersupported factors is quick court convictions. That one is staring us in the face. We are having to rely on the American courts to deal with our scammers. Yes, of course, Justice Minister Chuck has been shouting about it, and all credit to him for that. But after 15 months of his shouting, how much nearer is the system to having a significantly larger number of judges and courtrooms or better use of what we have? Has the recent Budget changed in any marked way the relative ALLOCATION to justice as against the allocation to security? The answer to both questions is NO.

Another undersupported factor is INVESTIGATIVE policing. Professor Anthony Harriott recently called attention to this in a carefully documented way. He illustrated the weak results coming from the large number of operational patrols and searches. Harriott's point is complemented by police investigation bringing forward only four cases under the two-year-old anti-gang legislation. They have not been able to pin down gang relationship of meaningful numbers of the alleged 258 gangs in the country.

Harriott's point is also endorsed by the experience of those on the ground who for years have been complaining about the investigation the police supposedly try to do AFTER they have detained and arrested. Too often what happens is that those detained are released without charge, or where charged are too often not convicted.

The recent talk emanating from the Government about social interventions as new PREVENTIVE measures, which are in truth the real need, is so far just talk. Timelines and implementation agents are conspicuously lacking. Yet the obvious failure of the current approach - just consider the painful loss of human lives every single day - is tackled in piecemeal fashion when the need is for a sharp turn of the steering wheel.