Political Will Needed to Fix Crime and Law Enforcement

There has been a lot of talk recently of the Government’s inability to curb the massive escalation of murders, kidnappings and other crimes in Jamaica. The Government is in a tough,tricky situation. Indeed if the Government wishes, it could wipe out most of the gunmen and other criminals in a jiffy. It would be very messy but the goal would have been achieved.

The Government has the upper hand, they have the police, military and the legislature to pass tough crime bills deemed vital in the war against crime. So why don’t they do it? Because in my view, it would be political and also economic suicide. An all out war would result in negative headlines all over the world, tourism would be greatly affected, investments too.

Many criminals would be killed, but so would many innocent persons and police as well.

Some may remember the joint police/military raid in Tivoli Gardens, West Kingston, a few years ago.Many people were killed, the incident drew worldwide attention, including the front page of the New York Times.

The Government is trying a two-tiered approach – trying to secure investments in the country while trying to reduce crime which discourages investments. It’s a terrible catch 22 dilemma. The high incidence of crime and disorder cannot be blamed on any single government. It goes back to all of the governments since independence in 1962.

The fact is crime-fighting and law enforcement have never been priorities for the PNP or JLP. Take a look at the conditions of the police stations,court houses and jails around the country. Many are made of wood and are over 100 years old. Some courts still use note books instead of computers. I remember as recently  as the late 1970s the police had to borrow vehicles from the old Public Works Department or Land Rovers from the Ministry of Agriculture when a riot occurred or some other emergency.

The police are not paid well or trained well,it seems many are recruited just for the numbers. Many Latin American countries allocate as much as two thirds of their budget to law enforcement – although I must admit many do so for repressive reasons – but unless we put money into fighting crime and criminals we will be complaining about the same thing years from now.

Plain and simple, the justice system is broken down badly. It takes years sometimes for a criminal case to be put on the calender. The last time a prison was built in Jamaica was over 150 years ago, even although crime as gone up ten-fold. Are the Jamaican people willing to pay for this or just complain. I strongly believe the Jamaican people would be willing to pay a little more taxes if it would be used to fix this terrible justice system.

There are over 30,000 outstanding traffic warrants out there, people who fail to show up in traffic court or fail to pay a fine. There are perhaps hundreds of criminal court warrants out there of people who do not show up for court. The police or courts don’t even know if the person listed on the warrants are who they said they are. The whole system is in chaos. It will take political will to fix it. It can be fixed.

Labor omnia vincit – “Labour conquers all”

     

Mark Lee

About Mark Lee

Editor, author and writer with career spanning print, radio, television and new media.

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