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Re-establish public order

Published:Friday | April 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Jamaicans have lost confidence in the ability of the authorities to enforce the country's laws - and not just in relation to murders, of which there have been at least 466 so far this year.

There have been compelling reasons for this cynicism: daily personal experiences. All round us lawbreakers behave with impunity. Public order is in shambles.

Law enforcement must show they can get the little things right and re-establish a sense of public order if they are to regain people's confidence and win support for a larger thrust against criminality.

We think the police, as a start, must adopt a zero-tolerance approach to matters of public order, including the enforcement of laws relating to night noises, the use of public spaces and praedial larceny.

But perhaps next to murder and the thieves who cost farmers dearly and badly hurt the rural economy, it is the flagrant abuse of the traffic laws that is most symbolic of the decline of public order in Jamaica and a sense of national ramshackle.

Support needed

There has recently been some attempt by the police to enforce the traffic laws. They are more visible on the roads. However, if their efforts are to translate into effective change, the police require the support of policymakers and the political executive to ensure that the appropriate systems are in place.

We understand, for instance, that a policeman on patrol cannot, at present, electronically attach a ticket for a traffic violation to a driver's licence or interrogate a central database to determine whether a driver has outstanding tickets or the number of demerits that would disqualify him from operating a motor vehicle.

An appropriate system has to be put in place.

The absence of a modern information system, buttressed in some instances by corruption, leads to the renewal of drivers' licences of persons with several outstanding tickets and ought to be barred. Moreover, these failures mean that hundreds of millions of dollars in traffic fines remain uncollected.

If the Island Traffic Authority, which issues driver's licences and has other regulatory responsibilities for vehicles and traffic management, is incapable of doing its job properly, maybe it is time that it is divested.