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Horace Levy | Finding a comprehensive plan to stop murders

Published:Monday | December 18, 2017 | 12:00 AM
This man and woman having fun with water, right after the Denham Town ZOSO fun run, an effort by the police and the Jamaica Defence Force to bring the community members together on Sunday.
A woman positions herself for inspection at a military checkpoint in Mount Salem, St James, the first declared zone of special operations.
A resident of Regent Street being searched by a cop when the Zone of Special Operations was declared in Denham Town on October 17.
A resident passes through one of the zones of special operations checkpoints on Regent Street in Denham Town, west Kingston.
Crime scene
Murders are taking a toll on Jamaicans.





A. The Plan must accurately identify the Problem as:


1. The very high number of murders

2. The causes of the high numbers of murders, namely both the absence of opportunity for large numbers of young men and young women, with the involved dissing and shaming that provokes violent responses (James Gilligan, Preventing Violence, 2000) and

3. The experience of family poverty, beating, school dropout, gang, guns, shooting and lock-up, carried over from the past, that puts these youth at high risk of serious crime.


B. The Plan must:


1. Adopt the best practices of previous plans while overcoming their shortcomings

2. Have implementers with experience and a record of success

3. Prescribe a cost within the capability of the State, private sector and people of Jamaica, and

4. Include a time frame for short and long term.




1. A combination of more social workers and police posts

The best practice from previous attempts, especially the ZOSO, is their COMBINATION of policing and social intervention. Their weakness is a reliance more on mass and 'hard' policing, with an attendant high cost. The social dimension has been a 'weak sister'. This arrangement has not worked as is clearly evident. The evidence is not only murder levels but also criminals continuously crossing old barriers. The barrier now being crossed is to attack police themselves. There are other barriers to be crossed.

A REVERSAL of emphasis to:

- Substantially increase the social intervention, both the number of social workers, three to five to each community of 3,500 upward (depending on violence level), and the number and pace of communities addressed, i.e. from two (ZOSO) communities over three plus months to 50 communities in six front line parishes over a similar period, and

- Substantially decrease policing intervention, from 300 to 400 police and soldiers per community to posts of 15 to 20 and without curfew restrictions on movement of residents.

- The charge to the social workers is to mainstream in each community the 50 to 250 at-risk young men and women. The charge is also to build community activity, spirit and resilience. If these two tasks are well tackled, criminal gangs will literally find no space in communities.

- The social workers will focus, first, on winning the trust of the youth, then head off their conflicts through mediation and engage them in healthy sport and cultural events. Four-day retreats away from their communities instil values to govern drug use, sex, family and community life, personal and career development. They include case-filing each youth so as subsequently to steer toward literacy, further education, HEART skill training, or an entrepreneurial project, and employment.

- The charge to the police post by its simple presence is to give to the community that security that is their right and the State's basic responsibility. It is to counter illegal shooting and other criminal activity. The post's stay should only be as long as weakness in community resilience requires it.

2. Frontline implementation

Policing implementers will be those police and soldiers who have demonstrated commendable conduct in the ZOSOs with their respect for people's rights.

Social implementers will be a range of organisations of both the State and civil society. The lead implementer proposed is the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), which currently has the experience and a good record of violence interruption in Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine and Clarendon.

The PMI already has some 75 social workers deployed in 49 communities. Alongside Chicago CeaseFire (now Cure Violence), it trained its own social workers and is capable of training the larger body required. PMI's earlier success in the KMA has been documented - in 2009, a 42 per cent drop in homicides in its focus areas even as island wide, the country recorded the highest rate ever. By PMI's report (police statistics are only by parish), the 10 communities of its focus around Spanish Town (bus park NOT included), murders decreased by 30 per cent from January to September compared to last year. Meanwhile the parish as a whole recorded for the same period an 8.4 per cent increase and the nation 25 per cent. For this year's July to October 14 period, five of the same communities had zero murders.

The charge to social worker outlined above is exactly what the PMI is already doing. It has the experience, comprehensive vision and detailed knowledge of multiple communities. It has a record of collaborating with other organisations. This undertaking will be a civil society task in collaboration with the State. That is why the Peace Management Initiative (East) (PMI) must be the lead agency. It is an independent non-partisan NGO with a 16-year history of setting its own policy while collaborating with political parties (on its board) and, through funding, with the State, the same kind of joint work of EPOC and the earlier Electoral Commission of Jamaica.

3. The financial and agency implementation

The plan's principal cost will not come from social workers or police posts. Adequately staffed, PMI could probably manage 100 communities for under $400 million a year. This writer does not have remuneration figures for Jamaica Constabulary Force or Jamaica Defence Force. I would note, however, that 1,500 to 2,000 community post officers would be fewer and far less costly than ZOSOs at 300 to 400 persons each. The main cost will be to meet infrastructural and employment needs. This is where State agencies and the private sector come in. John Mahfood has set an example for the latter.

Ministries of the State with responsibility for roads, domestic and irrigation water, and garbage collection would focus their attention more rigorously on poor and needy communities. The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), Urban Development Corporation, Tourism Product Development Company, Jamaica Business Development Corporation and similar bodies would work alongside the PMI and the Social Development Commission. The private sector has the huge role of providing the larger part of that crucial component, which is the employment craved by well over 200,000.

Yes, this will run into quite a few billion dollars, over three or five years, more than the $2.56 billion put up by the PM. I would need another article to spell out possible but real sources. But will the cost come close to a quarter or half of the $80 billion (five per cent of GDP) lost to violence and murder every year? Along with regular stepped-up hot-spot policing, this proposal puts forward a way to immediately staunch the flow of blood and, within two to three years, substantially lower the murder rate.