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CaPRI to collaborate with security ministry in newly launched initiative

Published:Sunday | June 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Dr Damien King

There is an immediate need to rethink the approaches to tackling crime and violence at both the national and community levels. Indeed, data received from the Jamaica Constabulary Force reveal that murders increased by 11 per cent in 2016 when compared to 2015.

As the nation awaits a detailed outline of the different crime-reduction and prevention strategies that will be pursued this year and beyond, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) recognises the need for a comprehensive and coordinated security policy and planning strategy which draws on the expertise of all affected stakeholders and interested parties - leveraging relevant and robust data and analyses. On Monday, June 19, CaPRI launched a two-year initiative seeking to improve the immediate and long-term security of citizens through providing research support to the Citizen Security And Justice Programme.

'Transforming Citizen Security A Yaad', undertaken with the support of the UK's Department for International Development, will see CaPRI producing nine studies destined to inform policymaking towards a significant reduction in violent crime in Jamaica by 2019. The project will also encourage coordinated action between relevant government institutions, the private sector and civil society.


A collaborative enterprise

During this project, CaPRI will be closely collaborating with the Ministry of National Security, as well as with the office of the national security adviser, in order to ensure that goals are aligned and that, as much as possible, the Government's research needs are met. Indeed, this project seeks to support the Citizen Security and Justice Programme in its active pursuit of a safer Jamaica. It is in the same spirit of collaboration that the Citizen Security A Yaad Committee was assembled. This six-member advisory committee, chaired by national security adviser Major General Antony Anderson, and including permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Dianne McIntosh, also counts as members local academics specialising in crime, violence, anthropology, sustainable development and economics, and will be in charge of providing guidance to the project team over the course of the two years.


Reforming the JCF

Police officers are, in many cases, citizens' most direct contact with crime-prevention measures. As such, an effective police force is crucial to the success of many crime-reduction strategies.

With this consideration, in the early stages of the newly launched two-year enterprise, CaPRI will be providing assistance towards the development of the new Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Act, scheduled for October 2017.

This first item on the agenda will begin with the organisation of a working group of relevant and competent stakeholders, who will be responsible for providing inputs to inform a policy guideline document. Positive community-police relationships are, however, crucial in ensuring citizen collaboration in the fight against crime.

Given a certain climate of mistrust between the police and the public, and considering that effective security requires national cooperation, five public consultations will be held in Kingston, St Andrew, Portmore, Mandeville and Montego Bay to gather feedback from the public on the proposed elements of reform, before the document is finalised and shared with the minister of national security and his advisers.

While the community of August Town, with its history of violence, recorded in 2016 an impressive zero murders, the reasons behind this achievement are still to be determined. With the help of community development facilitator Kenneth Wilson (who was instrumental in the 2016 success), CaPRI will be looking at the factors which directly led to such a significant reduction in violent crime.




In another case study, the think tank will be examining the nature of violent crime in Montego Bay and neighbouring parishes. Indeed, experts have noted that the dynamics of St James and the surrounding environs are distinctly different and may very well require different control and prevention strategies. The conclusions of both studies will be used to formulate country-specific recommendations towards an effective anti-gang policy.


‘An agnostic approach’

Five additional studies have deliberately not been defined ahead of the start of the project. Indeed, the crime issue, as highlighted by Dr Damien King in the project launch's opening remarks, is complex and needs to be looked at with an agnostic mindset, explaining the exploratory and multifaceted approach which CaPRI is taking towards it.

With this view, the official launch, which was held at the Worthington Building (New Kingston), sought to inform further understanding of the nature of the violent crime problem in Jamaica, towards which four speakers were invited to present different perspectives. The evening provided a platform for members of an audience of over 200 to express their views on the crime issue, which, when combined with the varied perspectives presented by the evening's presenters, confirmed the notion that further discussion will be critical to informing the focus of the four aforementioned studies. As such, in addition to regular Citizen Security A Yaad Committee meetings, a series of six high-level stakeholder workshops, conducted over the two-year period, will ensure continued collaboration and focus on effective interventions in both crime control and prevention.

'Transforming Citizen Security A Yaad' will conclude with the design and implementation of a 'Crime Scorecard', which will most likely be managed by the Ministry of National Security. This accountability tool, which will include key performance metrics and deliverables, will enable the tracking of agreed crime-reduction measures, both internally and externally, as it will be made accessible to citizens.