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Winning the public's trust against criminals

Published:Thursday | April 15, 2010 | 12:00 AM

IF THE corpses of the 463 people murdered in Jamaica in the past 104 days were lined up head to toe, they would stretch for nearly the entire length of the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. When they were alive, these people packed a dozen Jamaica Urban Transit Company buses. The same group would have formed a healthy crowd in Montego Bay's Sam Sharpe Square, and could occupy the seats around the Cabinet table 29 times.

Yet, to this wanton carnage, which costs so much in social and economic terms, the country seems to have no organised response. No one seems accountable. There is a sense of drift and hopelessness.

The situation cannot continue.

Win confidence of public

Those whose job it is to establish policy and to apprehend criminals must get on with it. Or, they must confess to their inability and move on.

If they stay, their effort must include winning the confidence and support of the public by showing credible and workable solutions to crime and violence.

Fear of reprisal, for instance, contributes to the failure of many citizens to provide the evidence with which to convict criminals. There is good reason for this. Witnesses are sometimes killed.

In this regard, the police must assure us that they have foolproof and verifiable methods of securing the lives of people who are willing to tell what they know and testify in court.

But convincing eyewitnesses to testify is not the only issue.

Electronic surveillance necessary

The use of electronic surveillance, including wire-taps, is, for example, a growing global trend in crime detection and evidence gathering. The system appears to be little used in Jamaica, judging by evidence adduced in court cases.

We recommend its wider use by law-enforcement agencies, but with appropriate protocols to prevent abuse of privacy, and for the proper management and security of the information gathered, and to ensure its admissibility in court.

Jamaica in this fight against crime can, and should, seek the support of foreign partners. But for our country to be assured of its trust, our Government must fulfil its obligations, such as in the extradition of wanted persons, about which our Government has seemingly grown skittish.