- Violent crime is a major obstacle to growth and development in Jamaica.
- Last year had the lowest number of murders in eleven years but this year we have seen an increase in murders, especially in western Jamaica, even as all other categories of serious and violent crime continue the long term downward trend.
- Interestingly, unanticipated spikes in murders are also occurring in places where significant resources had previously been successfully deployed to fight crime.
Address Hon Peter Bunting MP, Minister of National Security
Handing Over Ceremony of Motor Vehicles to the Jamaica Constabulary Force
Monday November 9, 2015
Police Commissioner’s Office Old Hope Road
Violent crime is a major obstacle to growth and development in Jamaica. Its impact is more than economic. Violent crime is destroying lives, destroying families, destroying communities, and if not defeated will destroy our country. As a Government, we mourn the loss of every Jamaican life and share in the grief of the families, friends, and associates of the victims.
Last year had the lowest number of murders in eleven years but this year we have seen an increase in murders, especially in western Jamaica, even as all other categories of serious and violent crime continue the long term downward trend. Interestingly, unanticipated spikes in murders are also occurring in places where significant resources had previously been successfully deployed to fight crime.
A recent newspaper article headlined “Homicide Spike Draws Alarm from Obama Administration” quotes the FBI Director as saying; “the very disturbing homicide spike has law enforcement scrambling to figure out why it is happening now, and why in so many cities that seemingly have little in common otherwise. It’s happening all over the country and it’s happening all in the last ten months,”
This quote illustrates that what we are experiencing in Jamaica is not unique to us, and reflects the resilient nature of violent crime.
Successive administrations have sought to use the best available resources in this country to fight crime. We have invested billions of dollars, deployed thousands of dedicated men and women, developed and implemented scores of crime fighting strategies, established special squads and agencies, and enacted new legislation in an effort to make our country a safer place.
These measures have had varying degrees of success for limited periods but none have resulted in the sustained reduction in the levels of crime and violence, especially murders, that all of us as citizens of Jamaica desire for our country. This history underscores the importance of taking the fight against violent crime outside of the political point-scoring arena and into a sincere search for solutions and mature debate on strategy and direction. There is a seat at the table for all well thinking Jamaicans and we welcome Jamaicans from all sectors and views to work together with us on this challenge.
Over the years this disease of crime and violence has become deeply rooted in the fabric of our society and has been nurtured by the breakdown in important social institutions like the family, creating this massive cancer that must be dealt with, if we are to become a healthy society. This is why this administration has been taking the ‘public health’ approach to addressing this social disease.
Our approach is not only concerned with addressing the symptoms of the disease but in dealing with the conditions that encourage its spread and the behavioural norms that allow it to thrive. It is a three-pronged strategy that involves: the interruption of crime, the prevention of its spread, and changing the behaviours that make us vulnerable to this epidemic of violence.
Interruption is the element of the strategy that most people are familiar with and expect. It involves robust crime-fighting operations targeting criminal enterprises and violence producers. This is an essential component especially in situations where immediate and decisive measures are required. We are committed to the appropriate use of this strategy and have reorganized the security services to become a more agile, technologically advanced, intelligence driven and efficient operation.
The handing over of these vehicles today is just one more example of our commitment to providing the Police with the resources to wage a more sustained and effective war against violent crime. Today we are adding approximately sixty four (64) new vehicles to the fleet, greatly increasing the mobility of the force. By the end of the year, the fleet would have increased by approximately two hundred (200) vehicles, including bikes, cars, pickups, small SUVs, buses, and trucks. Over a dozen new inshore and offshore patrol and intercept boats have been added to the fleets of the JCF Marine Division and the JDF Coast Guard. We are grateful to our local and international partners who have contributed to this critical aspect of crime fighting.
Later this week, the JDF will begin operational deployment of the first set of vehicles from its new Protected Mobility Vehicle Squadron, in support of policing. This squadron represents the first reinvestment in that capability for the JDF in decades. Had such a capability been available at the time of the Tivoli Operation, it would likely have been resolved more quickly and with less injury and loss of life. Formal commissioning of that capability will occur at a later date.
Preventing the spread of violence involves working with our partners in the community, our international partners and other ministries and agencies of government to implement targeted social intervention programmes to address some of the factors that encourage criminal behaviour especially among our young people. Programmes like the Citizen Security and Justice Programme, CSJP and Peace Management Initiative (PMI) are helping at-risk young people, who are the ones targeted for recruitment by criminal enterprises and gangs, into more productive and lawful directions, and to help communities find better ways to resolve conflicts. This year, the Ministry has financed the training and deployment of over 50 persons under the management of PMI and PMI West to assist in conflict resolution and peace promotion in St. Catherine North and St. James.
Changing social norms is the most challenging element of the strategy as it is by its very nature a slow process, and in an environment where quick results are demanded it requires stick-to-itiveness to stay the course. Unite for Change is the principal initiative that is being used to promote the change towards a more lawful lifestyle among our citizens. Through a range of vehicles including live events, community consultations, social and mass media channels and programmes in collaboration with our partners we are promoting more effective parenting, volunteerism and better management of young people in schools.
Today, across our varied media channels, we will launch an anti-lottery scamming campaign. The campaign is called “Do di Math” and is designed to connect the dots; to show the corrosive impact that scamming has on Jamaicans and Jamaica. For this campaign we will be targeting audiences, especially in Area 1, with radio and TV ads, billboards, school interventions, posters and community talks, bringing the message that #LotteryScammingKills. Our aim is to create a social environment that rejects any assertion that scamming is a victimless crime or that it is a Robin Hood type activity. We will instead show the real consequences of scamming: robbery, murder, and certainly the forfeiture of assets and imprisonment.
Building a broader coalition against crime and violence
I am convinced that there is a strong and shared desire among all well-thinking Jamaicans for a safer Jamaica. This is a desire shared across all social, economic, religious and political lines. We all want a safer Jamaica. We see this in the scores of neighborhood watch groups operating around the country, in the many community peace walks that are held, attendance at town hall meetings, prayer vigils and religious gatherings promoting peace, advocacy by civil society groups and discussions led by private sector groupings.
These expressions are useful and are creating a growing national awareness that united action is necessary. We are ready I believe to present a strong and united front against our common enemy; criminals and violence producers.
The efforts of the Ministry, along with the many other initiatives led by other organisations and groups have established the need for us to move towards a broad national consensus on the way forward and the building of a national coalition against crime and violence.
The Rule of Law Working Group of the Partnership for Jamaica
Last week at the Partnership for Jamaica Council Meeting, a decision was made to establish a ‘Rule of Law Working Group’ of the Partnership of Jamaica, an initiative that I am convinced will further advance this broad national consensus and coalition against violent crime that so many Jamaicans have been calling for. This working group is similar to the EPOC and ESET teams which are successfully assisting in the areas of the economy and energy.
This initiative will assist in improving participation and accountability as well as providing a more objective and authoritative assessment of developments in this complex area. It will give our citizens a greater voice and influence in this national effort to reduce the unacceptably high levels of crime and violence especially murders, and create a safer Jamaica.
The Rule of Law Working Group will be chaired by Mr. Howard Mitchell, Vice-President of the Jamaica Manufacturers Association, and a lawyer with significant experience in chairing both public and private sector boards. Membership of the Working Group will be drawn from the Partnership for Jamaica, which comprises representatives of major organisations and interest groups in the society.
With the acceptance that law enforcement alone cannot solve our long term crime problems, we rely on partnerships such as the Rule of Law working group, but more so on the partnership and contribution of every citizen across Jamaica to help to return our society to a more caring, gentle and safe society. The only way this can be achieved is if we each one move from concern to action: tell the police what we know; disassociate ourselves from any common cause with lottery scammers and criminals. This is the only way to break the back of crime in Jamaica once and for all, and return us to the peaceful Jamaica our nation deserves.