‘We are not addressing core cause’
Crime-weary west doubtful 12-week plan to cripple crime will succeed, but long for relief
For the next 12 weeks, criminal networks in western Jamaica are expected to face more intense anti-crime measures that Police Commissioner Antony Anderson is confident will significantly reduce the number of murders in the region. Speaking to the...
For the next 12 weeks, criminal networks in western Jamaica are expected to face more intense anti-crime measures that Police Commissioner Antony Anderson is confident will significantly reduce the number of murders in the region.
Speaking to the media last week, the police chief said that renewed focus on Area One – which includes the parishes of Trelawny, St James, Hanover and Westmoreland – is expected to result in a reduction in crime during the April-June quarter.
“We are targeting some of the people we know are carrying out the violence, but also occupying the spaces and also the routes that they normally use, using not only our traditional techniques but we have been using some technology in that space, and that is why I am reasonably confident that over this quarter, we should see a change in what is happening in the west,” Anderson said.
But area leaders in two of the most volatile communities in western Jamaica say any strategy without accompanying social measures makes Anderson’s bold projections more fiction than reality.
“I do not see any tools in the toolbox that have not been tried,” said social activist O’Dave Allen of Granville, St James. “I do not want to sound cynical, because the issue of crime affects all of us, but we are not addressing the core cause of crime and violence in our society.”
Crime, Allen argues, is rooted in the economic architecture that speaks to a “broken window” theory.
“When you see a window broken, you should have it fixed,” he added. “There is currently a looseness in our society, so there is currently no window nor door and the foundation has been eroded. We have not dealt with the petty issues and so we are now faced with a society of lawlessness and disorder.”
Warring factions from the mostly underdeveloped seaside villages in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland – such as Cooke Street, Dalling Street, Russia, and Dexter Street – have been at odds since 2007, with numerous failed attempts by crime-fighters to stop the bloodletting that has seen the once-peaceful sugar-dependent parish become one of the most murderous police divisions in the country.
The Area One police divisions are responsible for 136, or 35 per cent, of the 396 homicides recorded by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) between January 1 and April 5.
Except for shootings, Hanover has seen encouraging reductions in serious crimes, but the usually tranquil parish of Trelawny has recorded an alarming jump in murders since the start of the year, or 10 more killings than the three lives lost tragically for the corresponding period last year.
St James and Westmoreland both have 23 more murders than the 47 and 18 committed, respectively, over the corresponding period last year.
The JCF attributes most of the killings in the western region to gangs.
AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY
Bishop O’Neil Russell, pastor of Ark of the Covenant Holy Trinity and the area leader for the embattled Cooke Street community located along the Savannah-la-Mar commercial district in Westmoreland, says he is hoping that the new strategy will bear fruit, but argues for social initiatives to be twinned with any anti-crime measures in his area.
“I am hoping that he (Anderson) will be able to reduce the crime in the region, but without the proper social intervention to assist the youths, this will be an exercise in futility,” said Russell, who had previously questioned Anderson’s suitability for the post. “If you are going to tell a youth to put down their scamming, you must have a solution to [fill] that void that will be left.”
He added, “Nothing has been happening for Westmoreland for several years; all that has been happening are meetings after meetings with no substance.”
But Anderson has hinted at operations driven by credible intelligence, as he lauded the public’s role in the recent successes.
Statistics from Crime Stop showed that there has been a 97 per cent increase in tips from the public for the first quarter of 2022, when compared with the same period last year. The bulk of the information provided related to illegal firearms and ammunition, gunmen, wanted persons, lottery scamming and drugs, which saw the JCF, along with other law enforcement agencies, seizing 223 illegal firearms, 28 more than the 195 for the corresponding period in 2021.
“It is clear that our citizens are recognising the people who are damaging our society for what they are – the architects of death, mayhem and pain,” Anderson said, as he warned that no stones will be left unturned to catch the criminals.
“We are going after the money,” he added. “The girlfriends and mothers who collect the extortion money; the school friends who register assets in their name; businesses that knowingly help them launder money; the family members and friends who try to clear the illegal weapons and ammunition – all of them are part of the gang and all of them are our target.”
STRATEGIES IN PLACE
The formation of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and Jamaica Defence Force joint anti-gang task force, as well as partnerships with the Financial Investigations Division, Jamaica Customs Agency and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency are seen as game changers in the fight against crime.
Memoranda of understanding have also been established between law enforcement and key entities, including the Integrity Commission, for information-sharing, analysis, provision of financial profiles and documents for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of corruption, financial crime and revenue collection, among other things.
For renowned Montego Bay businessman Godfrey Dyer, chairman of the Tourism Enhancement Fund and a former crime-fighter, the timeline given by the constabulary might seem unrealistic, but recent “detections” are an indicator that the police are heading in the right direction.
“The police commissioner’s plan would be a wonderful turn of events for us in the west, but I do not see that nowhere in sight,” Dyer, a former president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told The Sunday Gleaner. “What I have been seeing in crime-fighting is an increased level of detection and that is very encouraging, and if that continues, that will lead to the reduction we all desire.”
Dyer added: “It is heartbreaking when you hear of our people being killed, but it is very encouraging when you see the culprits being held in numbers, and that is something we must encourage.”