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National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips, this morning (Sept. 7) launched the Community Security Initiative (CSI), a multi-stakeholder programme, which the Minister has said would seek to stem the scourge of criminality by improving social services in a number of the island’s poorer communities, that were breeding grounds for criminals.
At the launching ceremony held at the Hilton Kingston Hotel, Minister Phillips, explained that the CSI would “aid the social transformation of crime and violence-prone, gang-dominated communities into safe zones with legitimate social and economic processes; and also enhance the reach of public, social and economic services to poor, socially excluded communities, to strengthen their capacity to resist penetration and domination by criminals”.
A key component of the CSI is the establishment of a network of citizens in targeted communities to work in partnership with the local police and civic groups to consolidate and preserve community development gains, the Minister informed.
Already, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has identified a number of communities in Kingston for the implementation of the programme. These include Matthews Lane, August Town, Mudd Town in Papine, and Dunkirk in Eastern Kingston.
The St. Catherine communities of March Pen, Tawes Pen, Ellerslie Pen and Homestead have also been selected to participate in the project.
The Minister noted that in seeking to achieve its objectives, the CSI would not duplicate services already being provided by government agencies, but would fortify partnerships with these agencies to improve their services.
“Simultaneously,” he continued, “the CSI will facilitate the capacity building process within the communities to monitor service delivery and create the conditions for improvement.”
To this end, the Social Development Commission (SDC) and the HEART Trust/NTA will play critical roles in the project, with the former providing relevant information through its community database as well as its community-based organisation network. Meanwhile, the HEART Trust will function as the agency that will provide behaviour modification, and vocational training to the residents of the selected communities.
Other important stakeholders, Dr. Phillips highlighted were the National Church Alliance and the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
In regard to the JCF’s role, he informed that, “even as they enforce the rule of law in the community, [they] will have to consciously adopt strategies and participate directly to build trust between themselves and the citizens they serve.”
Initial funding for the CSI will come from a $200 million grant from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) over a two year-period.
In addition to the UK’s funding, Dr. Phillips revealed that the government was “currently having discussions with a number of other international partners as well as with the local private sector, so we can augment this fund over time.”
The Minister said he was hopeful that the “CSI would be a continuing part of the effort to engage in a coordinated programme of social interventions driven by the efforts of the security forces.”
In his remarks at the launch, Minister of Development, Dr. Paul Robertson said the implementation of the CSI represented “an important step as we continue to address the serious national challenge of crime and violence.”
He noted that in devising the programme, the government had carefully analysed the ‘Peace and Prosperity Project,’ which the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has implemented in Barbican and Standpipe.
“We sought to take the best from this particular initiative,” Dr. Robertson said, adding, “the most important lesson we learnt was the emphasis on behaviour change and that it achieved better results than just investments to improve physical infrastructure, even though that was important.”
In his address, Deputy British High Commissioner, Phil Sinkinson, praised the achievements of Operation Kingfish, but argued that “in order to free communities permanently from the control of criminal gangs, “we have to do more than arrest so-called dons and gang members of troubled and marginalised communities.”
Mr. Sinkinson said there was an urgent need to offer citizens a better way of life than those offered by the gangs and criminal networks. “We need to offer access to skills training and regular employment, access to education and health services, and access to all levels of social services; and we need to guarantee safe and secure environment,” the Deputy High Commissioner opined.
He cited CSI as being a “very ambitious initiative that challenges some very powerful people and seeks to engage communities, which have no experience of engaging themselves with government.”
The CSI will be supervised by a seven-member board, comprised of Gilbert Scott, Permanent Secretary of the National Security Ministry who will act as the Board’s Chairman; Dennis Morrison, Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Development; Robert Bryan, Chairman of the Social Development Commission; Dr. Wesley Hughes, Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica; Mark James, at the UK Department for International Development (DFID); Bishop Herro Blair of the National Consultative Committee on Crime and Violence; and Lieutenant Oral Khan, Senior Director for Strategic Planning in the National Security Ministry.