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Not enough cops - Security minister wants to give Ellington more policemen and women

Published:Sunday | April 25, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Minister of National Security Dwight Nelson

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

Minister of National Security Dwight Nelson estimates that it will take approximately 15,000 police personnel to effectively carry out the crime-fighting measures being pursued by the operational arm of the national security apparatus.

"It is never enough. You will never have enough policemen and women to carry out strategies," Nelson told The Sunday Gleaner.

He was responding to queries about the numerical adequacy of the various departments in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to break the back of rampant violence.

"It has been posited that approximately 12,000 police personnel are needed, but I would say that at the point where we are right now, we would need about 15,000 to adequately take on the challenge," Nelson added.

The national security minister said that there were approximately 10,500 policemen and women on the ground, comprising 8,500 members of the JCF and 2,000 members of the Island Special Constabulary Force.

He said another 2,000 district constables were available to do static duties.

Nelson told The Sunday Gleaner that his proposal to establish a police reserve force to augment the crime-fighting fleet had been affected by budgetary constraints.

"It (the proposal) has not been shelved. As soon as resources permit, we will be pursuing this side," asserted Nelson.

Asked how realistically effective the existing cadre of crime fighters is likely to be, given the numerical deficiencies, Nelson conceded that it was a challenge.

But he was quick to assert that the State could not "lay down and play dead" in the face of criminal onslaughts.

"The police are doing their best ... . There is efficient management of the numbers that will enable us to achieve significant results.

"All hard-core police strategies must be buttressed by community-intervention programmes to create alternatives for inner-city com-munities," Nelson said.

At the same time, Nelson said the efforts intended to crush criminality could not be distracted by the number of policemen and women.

Primary focus

He reiterated that as a policy measure, the primary focus of the Government is addressing criminal gangs and strengthening border security.

It is estimated that approxi-mately 280 gangs are wreaking havoc across the island.

Data out of the security ministry reveal that the police increased operational activities in the first quarter, January to March 2010, to 168,081.

This represents a 35 per cent increase over the comparative period last year.

Spot checks increased by 21 per cent, roadblocks by 55 per cent, and raids, a primarily intelligence-driven activity, increased by 157 per cent.

Nelson said for the first quarter of this year, the security forces focused more intensely on the hot spots.

"In St James, for example, the number of mobile patrols increased by 60 per cent, compared to the first quarter of 2009. Quarterly mobile patrols nearly tripled."

According to Nelson, renewed attention has been given to border security.

His comments have come on the heels of an uncomplimentary report out of the United States on Jamaica's efforts to stem the flow of illegal drugs out of the country.

"We must strengthen crime control through targeted anti-organised crime initiatives and border security," Nelson declared.

Nelson also cited improving technology - including DNA - to allow the police to more effectively achieve conviction rate.

"Of significance is that we are in the process of creating storage for DNA data," the minister told The Sunday Gleaner.

Nelson said improved technology had contributed in a major way to the progress the police are making.

He said that of the 323 gun-related murders committed this year, 123 cases, or 34 per cent, have been cleared up mainly because of forensic evidence, supported by eyewitness testimonies.