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Let me begin by recognising that all of us are deeply concerned by the upsurge of violent crime which we have experienced since the beginning of the year. The entire nation has also been shocked and outraged by the deliberate assault on the members of the security forces, which has resulted in the death of four policemen and injury to five other officers.
The viciousness of the most recent homicides in Montego Bay confirms the ruthlessness of the criminals we are up against.
Let me assure you that we have begun to respond and as the full dimensions of this response unfolds, the situation will be brought under control and the entire area stabilized. This threat to the wellbeing of the Jamaican people and this most vital sector of the economy, will not be allowed to prevail.
The upsurge in murders so far this year contrasts with the reduction we achieved in 2006, where we recorded a 20% decline in the country as a whole and a 31% decrease in the Kingston Metropolitan Region.
The trend established in 2006 in the Kingston Metropolitan Area has been maintained so far this year and murders in this area continue to decline. However, in sharp contrast to the trend in the capital city, there has been a worrying increase in the number of murders reported in rural areas, including particularly in St. James, Westmoreland, St. Ann and St. Thomas.
What factors have contributed to this rural upsurge in crime?
First, is what I call the “displacement effect.” As we apply pressure in the Corporate Area some criminals have fled to these parishes to escape the heat.
The truth is, the criminals are constantly adjusting their strategies and tactics, and let us remember they are neither constrained by the Constitution nor legal procedures.
The second contributing factor arises from the fact that the hot-spots policing techniques which have proved so successful in the Kingston Metropolitan Region (KMR) have not yet been fully implemented in all police divisions across the island.
Third, is the continued fight over turf and the search for new spoils by organized crime consequent on the disruption of the cocaine trade. According to recent data from the United Nations, while in 2004 Jamaica accounted for 20% of all the cocaine transhipped to the US, this was reduced to a mere 2% in 2006.
As a result, organised criminal networks operating in Jamaica are now diversifying into new forms of criminal activities to replace the spoils of the cocaine trade. Investigations are already showing that in the parish of St. James, for example, of the homicides, a number of them are directly related to the conflict over the sharing of spoils from some of these new criminal activities and scams.
One further consequence of the pressure on the cocaine traders has been the emergence of a ganja for gun trade between Jamaica and Haiti and Central America, leading to a major increase in the availability of illegal firearms.
How are we responding to this new situation?
Let me emphasize, we do not need a new crime plan. We recognise that the battle to defeat criminality will require sustained effort and regular adaptation but we are staying the course.
As a consequence, our response is based on the accelerated implementation of our programme of reform the Jamaica Constabulary Force and of those measures which brought us success in 2006.
These measures include:
* Improved collaboration with the public to enhance confidence and the sharing of information with the security forces; * Concentrated attention to hot-spots of violence and crime, with an emphasis on community policing;
* Higher levels of transparency and accountability in the police force – through the newly established Police (Civilian Oversight) Authority.
* Continuous reform and modernisation of the security forces, including significant investment in new technologies such as the Automated Palm and Fingerprint Identification System (APFIS), and the Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS). These systems have enhanced significantly the investigative capacity of the force and are already producing results;
* Increased cooperation with our international partners to provide expertise and modern technologies; including recruitment of officers with international experience and expertise;
* Significant investment in marine assets including three large off-shore vessels for the JDF Coast Guard and twenty-three (23) boats for the Marine Police.
In response to the immediate security challenges in western Jamaica, the following measures are being implemented:
Joint JDF/JCF operations have been initiated in western Jamaica with the aim of ensuring immediate control of crime and the suppression of criminal activities in targeted communities.
Simultaneously, hot-spot policing techniques are being introduced to the affected areas. We are going to let the criminals know and feel that the law enforcement capacity will be capable of responding to criminal activity at any level of threat in any part of the country.
Operation Kingfish has established a permanent presence in Western Jamaica as a base for expanding its operations in that part of the country.
We are also expanding the Major Investigations Taskforce to include operations in Western Jamaica
We will be introducing legislation before the end of this Parliamentary year to allow DNA evidence to be collected from accused persons on the same basis that we now do with fingerprints.
In order to better protect our coastline, we will be deploying marine vessels across the island and establishing three permanent marine police bases on our South Coast to deal more effectively with the inflow of illegal guns. These will be located in Bowden, St. Thomas; the Portland Bight area of Clarendon and Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland;
We will be enacting the Proceeds of Crime Act before February, which will empower the state to seize the assets and ill-gotten gains of criminals. I am pleased to report that this Act was passed in the Lower House last Tuesday and will now proceed to the senate.
Legislation will be introduced to Parliament before the end of the Parliamentary year to provide for stiffer penalties for people trading in, and distributing illegal firearms.
Similarly, we will be laying legislation in Parliament to establish a National Investigative Authority which will directly tackle the investigation of corruption in all areas of public life. I expect this bill to be laid before the end of the Parliamentary year.
A major recruitment drive is now under way to increase the level and capacity of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
We will continue to upgrade the technologies in the force. By month-end we will complete a major upgrade of the police radio system and the 119 emergency hotline to ensure more effective response to emergency calls, at a cost of nearly twenty million (US$20M) dollars.
We recognize that a critical success factor in maintaining law and order is the building of public confidence in our law enforcement organizations. Accordingly, we will be strengthening the operations of the Civilian Oversight Authority, as well as, the anti-corruption unit within the Professional Standards Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Also, a major review of the Police Service Regulations, along with the Book of Rules will be conducted with a view to expanding the legal powers to remove tainted members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force from duty.
We cannot allow ‘bad apples’ to remain in the force – they destroy the trust that the public has in the police; they destroy the reputation of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, and they expose the majority of the decent men and women in the force to undue risk.
We will of course continue our effort to improve the working conditions and equipment available to members of the Force. Over the past year, we repaired numerous police stations across the country and currently a new facility is being constructed in Falmouth. Work will shortly begin in Bath, Port Maria, Point Hill, Alexandria, Hope Bay, Bluefields and Cambridge.
In the final analysis however, policing by itself, no matter how efficient, will not create the safe, secure, socially cohesive and economically productive society that all of us as Jamaicans want.
With the assistance of our international partners, we have already launched two major community initiatives. These are aimed at creating opportunities to more effectively distance the law-abiding majority from the criminal minority.
These programmes, the Citizens Security and Justice Programme and the Community Security Initiative, have been resoundingly successful in empowering communities and reducing crime. For instance, in the Mathews Lane Community, where there were 38 murders in 2005, there were only 9 murders in 2006. Similarly, in the Brown’s Town Community in Eastern Kingston there were 65 murders in 2005 as compared to 1 in 2006.
We will be extending and intensifying these programmes as part of our general crime prevention effort. Moreover, we will integrate and strengthen the network of neighbourhood organizations, police youth clubs and other civic organizations to build linkages among themselves in order to enable them to deal more effectively with security and public order concerns within their respective communities. In a few weeks, I shall speak to you further about this aspect of our effort.
The expansion of our social intervention initiatives will require substantial resources. There must be better coordination of the social intervention activities of the various government agencies and departments, creating stronger linkages. I am confident of the full support of Cabinet in this regard. In addition, we must strengthen our collaboration with the private sector in order to build the capacities of communities to sustain the gains that they have made against the criminals.
Let me now turn to another matter that is of importance to Jamaica’s future and reputation. That is the successful hosting of World Cup Cricket 2007 in March and April. On February 1, 2007, a new CARICOM visa regime will come into effect for the period for CWC, and at the same time we will be establishing a single CARICOM space for the purpose of travel and immigration Control during the period of the games.
While there is no doubt that there are some sectors that will be inconvenienced by the new Visa Regime, the fact is that it is necessary in order to ensure the security of Cricket World Cup in the context of the single CARICOM space. We have done everything, working with our CARICOM partners, to facilitate the interest of the tourist trade and other stakeholders, but we should never underestimate the extent to which the world has become a dangerous place since September 11, 2001.
CWC is the 3rd largest sporting event in the world after the Olympics and World Cup Football. We dare not risk the security of our people or the reputation of our region as a safe destination, by pretending that we are immune from the wider global security threats.
As Chairman of CARICOM’s Resource Mobilization Sub-Committee for Crime and Security, I have worked along with my CARICOM colleagues to mobilize critical support from the international community to assist us with providing the security for these games.
Jamaica will also be called upon to provide general security assistance for some of our CARICOM partners. It is vital that the whole region be successful in this effort, since any untoward event anywhere in the region will affect the reputation of the entire CARICOM Region. The whole world will be watching us, and we cannot afford to fail.
This year, apart from Cricket World Cup, there will be general elections. Once again, let me make it absolutely clear that any attempt to introduce violence as a factor in the election campaign will be repelled in the strongest possible manner, irrespective of the real or perceived political affiliation of the perpetrators.
As a country we have come too far to allow politics to be used as a cloak for criminals to impose a reign of terror for their own selfish motives.
Fellow Jamaicans, national security is an issue on which all Jamaicans of good-will must be united. It is important for us to understand that the war against crime is not a sprint; it is more like a long distance race. Let me assure you that we intend to stay the course and deal with all challenges as they come. I have every confidence that together we will succeed.
May God bless Jamaica.
Good evening.