Op-Ed: How to Contain Jamaican Crime

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - June 26, 2013

By Kent Gammon
Op-Ed Contributor

THE MURDER RATE per 100,000 is 41 in Jamaica, making it one of the most murderous countries in the world.

With its economy heavily dependent on tourism, crime is not a variable it can afford. No one will travel to “marketed paradise” if it really is a war zone. And in the Twitter world, today word gets out faster than the Ministry of Information can conjure up the first spin versions on any criminal incident.

Since March 2012, homicides seem to have been steadily increasing, despite the Minister of National Security declaring that Christopher “Dudus” Coke was largely responsible for the outrageous homicidal rate in Jamaica. Dudus has been in a United States Federal prison since June 2010 thereabouts and homicides in Jamaica show no signs of slowing down, much less being reversed.

Crime stymies the economy

Crime accounts for some 5 percent of the country’s total Gross Domestic Output. If Jamaica could cut crime in half it would grow its economy by at least 2.5 percent, which amounts to approximately $100 million US dollars that could be injected into desperately needed productive economic activities.

But crime is worse than just equating it into dollar figures. It has a devastating psychological impact on the psyche of people. Crime destroys the human spirit because it cheapens life and blights entrepreneurialism.

There is no entrepreneur who will risk his capital in some new business venture only to have it stolen by thieves. This has a negative multiplier effect on business and results in less resources to the state to fight crime.

Criminal cops are worse than criminal citizens

Unless the Jamaica Constabulary Force can rid its force of criminal cops, the trust in the Jamaica Constabulary Force will continue to be undermined and the tip offs from the citizens that are critical to their efforts will likewise continue to wither.

It was the fear of the citizen of police reprisal who had filmed on his cellular phone the shooting by a police constable of a citizen lying on the ground in St Ann that caused that constable to go free for lack of evidence.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, constitutionally empowered to prosecute all citizens, including Jamaica Constabulary Force personnel, cannot do an effective job of crime fighting if the police do not produce credible witnesses and thorough investigations.

And Jamaica’s citizenry will lose confidence in the powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions if her office cannot even convict persons who commit criminal acts are filmed on tape.

No more business as usual

The Jamaican authorities cannot continue to fight crime with the same methods when crime continues to get worse. There needs to be much more radical solutions applied to the problem.

It is proposed that the Jamaican authorities ought to radicalize their crime fighting methods such as:-

(1)           Empower the Independent Commission of Police Investigations to charge and arrest constables and officers that commit crimes,

(2)           Empower the Office of the Contractor General to charge and arrest public officials who commit breaches of the Contractor-General’s Act,

(3)           Legislate plea bargaining. This would allow the smaller criminals to bargain for lesser time in prison by giving up the masterminds behind organized crime.

(4)           Put in place alot more closed circuit television at major thoroughfares. Criminals are less likely to commit crime if they weigh the prospects of being caught and find the odds against them.

(5)           DNA legislation for all deported persons. A DNA data bank is desperately needed for persons who commit criminal acts in other countries and are deported to Jamaica. When criminal acts are committed these persons DNA should be cross checked first in the DNA data bank against forensic evidence taken from crime scenes.

(6)           Introduction of legislation similar to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the “RICO Act.” This is a law that was introduced in the 1990s in the United States of America that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

There are too many criminal gangs in Jamaica that operate at large because of extremely ineffective policing and lack of resources to fight criminal gangs.

When Christopher “Dudus” Coke was arrested in 2010, who had been operating at large for over 2 decades in Jamaica, it was the United States law enforcement agency that had him arrested and now convicted.

Jamaica’s reputation for seriously enforcing law and order took a huge blow when the Bruce Golding Administration of the day resisted at first the extradition request of Christopher “Dudus” Coke on the grounds of violation of his constitutional rights as a Jamaican citizen. However that resistance soon wore down quickly and the Golding administration, after approving “Dudus” extradition to the USA, subsequently put alot of state resources into effecting same. Bruce Golding later paid a heavy political price having to resign shortly thereafter as Prime Minister and the Jamaica Labour Party being walloped at the polls on Dec. 29, 2011.

Today, even with the biggest criminal organization largely out of commission with “Dudus” behind bars organized crime still flourishes in Jamaica.

The consequence is a weakening Jamaican dollar, a frightening murder rate and a declining economy.

Crime continues to be the biggest hindrance to economic growth in Jamaica and bold and radical changes are needed now in fighting crime.

Kent Gammon, LLM is a former candidate for the Jamaica Labour Party and an Attorney-at-law.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

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