Mon | Jul 22, 2019

Jaristotle's Jottings | Any strategy beyond SOEs and ZOSOs?

Published:Thursday | July 11, 2019 | 12:10 AM

The Government has now imposed a state of emergency (SOE) in South St Andrew, adding to the tri-parish SOE in western Jamaica and the various zones of special operations (ZOSOs). While these measures no doubt see the designated areas being flooded by the security forces and achieving a notable and immediate reduction in criminal activities, I am inclined to wonder if there is any meaningful strategy beyond these measures.

Are they mere knee-jerk remedies designed to cauterise the murder rate and provide breathing space for now, or are they precursors to more sustainable crime-control strategies?

Crime flourishes because of three main factors.

1. Motivation: that which incites and encourages individuals to engage in criminal activities, notably the financial rewards, power and reputation, and flamboyant lifestyles. On the converse, one may also attribute motivation to diminished law enforcement and judicial systems where the likelihood of being caught and jailed are low.

2. Capability: the ability to amass the tools that facilitate criminal activities and evasion of law enforcement. Weapons, vehicles, safe houses, communications, bribe money, and paid-for loyalists.

3. Opportunity: Motivated and capable, criminals are always on the hunt for opportunities, especially easy pickings with substantive rewards.

The principal idea behind any successful crime-control strategy is to first deny criminals the opportunity to run amok in the society. Reducing the motivational factors and restricting their capabilities require more long-term interventions. However, regardless of which factor is being addressed, due consideration must be given to the security, social, economic and political issues that are inextricable to these factors. So, I again ask the question: Is there a strategy beyond the SOEs and ZOSOs?

‘HOUND the hoodlum’

As far as denial of opportunities to commit crimes, the security forces need to move away from the use of public assets for personal whims to an ethos of official usage only. Assets such as vehicles should be readily available for law-enforcement purposes, not private jaunts. Being in the right place at the right time, with the right tools, makes a world of difference where prevention and response are concerned.

How about a ‘hound the hoodlum’ campaign, arresting them for every infraction committed, regardless of the gravity. Spending time and money attending court reduces their availability to engage in mayhem. Opportunities denied.

The security forces also need to look outside the box to refuge communities and areas where criminals are likely to target while the law-enforcement focus remains in the SOEs and ZOSOs. Anticipate and be proactive.

Regarding restrictions on capability, there is a lot more that can be done, albeit not without controversy. Criminals thrive on the psychology of their guns, mobility and connections. Take these away and they become lesser beings.

The security forces should be using the opportunity afforded them during these SOEs and ZOSOs to seize the assets of known and suspected gangsters, especially those for which no account can be given. Force the beneficial owners to come forward and explain how they acquired these assets, and then tie them up in legal red tape ad infinitum.

Such interventions will deny the criminals certain capabilities on the one hand and unearth a wealth of invaluable information. And do the same for all the quasi-supporters, facilitators and fixers, family members and suspected associates. Make it painful for anyone to be an ally.

Adopt an isolation strategy. Restrict their ability to exert influence. Incite switched loyalties. That is what the Colombians did to topple Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel.

The more we deny them the opportunities to overrun us, the more we deny them access to tools and assets, the less motivated they will be.

So, Messrs Commissioner and Chief of Staff, what lies beyond?

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