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Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Mark Shields, has said that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), must improve its policing strategies and forge greater partnerships in the drive to dismantle criminal gangs in the country.
“I think we’ll be in a better position as we go into 2009, to tighten up our strategies around dismantling gangs. It is not just about going out there and arresting loads of young men in poor communities. We’ve got to be a lot smarter and sharper than that and use intelligence. it’s a long process.but what we can do is improve not only our policing but our partnership approach with other agencies in order that we can work together,” DCP Shields stated.
He was speaking at a press conference on Wednesday (Nov. 5) at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston, at the culmination of a two-day symposium on criminal gangs, hosted by the National Security Ministry and the JCF.
The symposium, the Deputy Commissioner said, was somewhat of a “health check” to see if the country was on the right path in its approach to tackling the gang problem. He noted that a lot of analysis has been done on guns but very little on gangs, and so at the beginning of last year, “we decided that it was about time that we brought people together in order that we could really look at the problem (of gangs) in the Jamaican perspective.”
“We have confidence in what we (the police) are doing, because we are not far off track. The thing is, we have an enormous problem and it is going to take every single person in Jamaica to solve the crime problem. It isn’t just a police thing and that was the purpose of the conference, to bring all of those partners together and to look at ways in which we could work together more closely in the future,” he pointed out.
While the police was strongly represented at the meeting, DCP Shields said that more than 50 per cent of the delegates were from organisations involved in social intervention strategies such as the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), in addition to representatives from various Government departments. “We had one reformed gang member as well. He was giving his perspective,” he informed, noting that there were also experts from other countries.
DCP Shields said that the need for community policing was one of the issues that came out of the symposium. He noted that this strategy was nothing new “but. I think that we need to do more. I think that we need to change the culture in terms of how we deal with people.”
He indicated that a document will be produced detailing all the information acquired over the two days, and the strategies that are going to be put in place.
In the meantime, Professor at the Centre of Criminology at the University of Toronto in Canada, Scott Wortley, one of the panelists at the symposium, said that one of the main themes that emerged from the conference was the need for partnership between law enforcement and the community, in order to effectively deal with the crime problem.
“It would be difficult for you to charge your way out of this problem. It may deal with the problem at the immediate level, it may cause a temporary reduction in crime, but unless you address these issues at the community level, that void or that vacuum is going to be filled again with the same issues of gangs, crime, alienation, disengagement,” he said.
“And so at the same time that you must weed the problem of existing gangs and the existing violence out of particular communities and neighbourhoods, you also have to plant new seeds, so that these issues don’t take root again,” he added.