Thu | Feb 20, 2020

A dying police tactic - Views mixed on value of cops releasing their personal phone numbers for tips from public

Published:Sunday | January 26, 2020 | 12:33 AMCorey Robinson - Staff Reporter

To bolster public trust and to combat the ‘informer fi dead culture’, some divisional commanders in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) have for decades shared their personal cell phone numbers with residents, hoping to get more to share information on criminals.

But while the tactic is useful in many instances, there are still some residents who continue to keep their distance and information from police sleuths. Still some are wary the ‘info’ will be passed on to thugs.

There are also retired policemen who feel the policing tactic is being underused and thus dying as the police hierarchy continues to push the official 119, 311 and 100-Corrupt emergency numbers.

During a community meeting in Allman Town two weeks ago, Deputy Superintendent Lynval Phoenix, head of the Allman Town police, shared his personal number with residents after an impassioned plea for some to break ties with criminal relatives, and side with the cops.

But even as Phoenix’s ultimatum echoed from a speaker at the intersection of Sarah and St George’s streets, residents hissed and snickered at the lawman’s promise of “the bigger the guns (they turn over), the bigger the money”.

“We have to come out. Stand up and be counted!” urged Phoenix.

“A fi wi family member dem, and it is our yards that they are keeping the gun. So, somebody has to tell them, ‘listen, the guns can’t stay here’,” continued the senior policeman, adding that dons have nothing to offer the area but bloodshed, heartache and frustration.

“Somebody has to take the stance. Because if you don’t take a stance, believing that you are okay, then I am sorry for you,” he preached to unresponsive clusters of residents standing at the intersection.

“Women are not pardoned anymore by criminals or the enemies of your family members. They don’t care whether or not you wear a skirt or pants,” he continued. “If you decide to stand up there when they come, then you will get whatever is coming at you.

“There is nothing in Allman Town for any street to have any dons,” he continued, adding that the central Kingston community is overrun with social challenges, which have existed for years.

Conflicts out of control

According to the superintendent, gang rivalries in the area stem mostly from domestic conflicts that have mushroomed out of control. He was not surprised that no resident came forward when the floor was opened for questions at the meeting two Wednesdays ago.

“It (fear for reprisals) is an easy line for them (residents) to take,” Phoenix told The Sunday Gleaner last week. “The truth is that we have our sources and our sources tend to be very reliable. We have been able to execute all our strategies within these communities with a significant measure of success.”

Phoenix was not prepared to speak to outstanding crimes and wanted men in the area, and the Corporate Communications Unit (CCU) said there have been no reports of homicides in the area since January.

Residents of the area claimed a lull in violence is often deceptive in tough communities like Allman Town, which has a history of stand-offs.

“Them (police) nuh baddah give we nuh number, ’cause nobody not going to call them. Dem same one going to call the badman dem and call back we name,” murmured one female resident, as others looked on.

Other residents brushed aside Phoenix’s vow of sincerity with a hiss.

Last week, three senior policemen stressed the benefit of residents having direct contact to them, while two retired cops said the tactic is not being used as effectively as in yesteryears.

“It is very effective because as you know the culture of west Kingston residents, they prefer one-on-one with the top man in charge. A lot of the time when they have the other numbers and they have a complaint they don’t know who to follow up with,” explained Superintendent Howard Chambers, former head of the gritty Kingston West division.

“When they have your personal number now, they know that their concerns will be dealt with by the number one man in the division,” he said. Chambers’ recent reassignment from the division has caused residents of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town much dismay.

Meanwhile, tough-talking former Police Superintendent Reneto Adams told The Sunday Gleaner he believed such intimate policing is dying a slow death in Jamaica. Adams was known to write his number boldly on zinc fences in war-ravaged communities where he would also warn the mothers of gangsters of their children’s fates.

“I see where they put the official numbers on the radio and the television. I haven’t seen anybody putting their private number on any walls,” said Adams.

“In all the communities that I went into and did operations: before, during, and after, I would have left my phone number and people would have copied it. Even before I left the community, people would give me information about the persons I was looking for or they give me information about the firearm that was hidden,” he said.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com