JIS News

National Security Minister, Dr Peter Phillips has said in the face of the regional struggle against organized crime and drug financed criminal networks there was need for regional and international cooperation to develop new approaches to policymaking and to update the basic tools in law enforcement.
In this, he said, the contribution of legal scholars and academic researchers in re-examining the various elements of the criminal justice system to see how it could be made more efficient, was of great importance.
Dr. Phillips was speaking on Wednesday (Feb. 11) at the dual opening ceremony of the Third International Conference on Crime and Criminal Justice in the Caribbean and the launch of “Understanding Crime in Jamaica: New Challenges for Public Policy”, a book edited by Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Dr. Anthony Harriott, at the Mona Visitors Lodge and Conference Centre.
He said the conference was timely for the region and the presence of the various international participants made it clear that crime was a global concern, adding that the Caribbean region in particular, was opened to increased threat because of the drug trade.
“In its passage through our borders, the organization of the trade creates havoc and threatens to undermine not only our communities but vital national institutions (as well),” he noted.
Dr. Phillips however, pointed out that Jamaica’s crime problem and by extension the Caribbean’s, was essentially two-pronged, rooted in historical and cultural practices, and worsened by the activities of criminal networks, that aside from committing murders, were able to “corrupt persons in critical national institutions” and because of their wealth amassed large-scale support from persons who became antagonistic toward law enforcement personnel.
The National Security Minister noted that there had been a rise in such tendencies in several sections of the island, which posed a grave danger “with potentially catastrophic consequences for the survival of the state. They represent a major challenge to law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” he noted.
He said however, that government was not daunted as the problems could be addressed through national and international endeavours and infrastructural improvements for law enforcement.
Referring to the December 2002 anti-crime initiative, which utilized the army and police units to stem post election disturbances in several sections of the Corporate Area, Minister Phillips, said it was clear that “targeted interventions can contribute to sustained crime reduction even within the most violent prone communities,” as it had contributed to the reduction of murders by almost 15 per cent over the two-year period.
“Part of what we have to embark upon is an understanding and the deliberate reversal of some of these dehumanizing tendencies that have been sustained and which persist,” Dr. Phillips told the gathering.
He added that “some of the solutions necessary are going to come from long-term social interventions,” including a reform of the educational system to include civic and community values and an acceptance of non-violent ways of conflict resolution. He said however, that such interventions depended on information gleaned from crucial research and analysis carried out by the UWI.
Dr. Phillips told the gathering that the international developments banks, which had identified the high levels of crime as the main impediment to the country’s development prospects, had refused to finance the necessary improvements to the infrastructure of law enforcement. Consequently, the main national penal institutions remain outmoded and overcrowded. “If the average length of stay is less than five years for each person that is put in those institutions and if they are kept in inhuman and degrading conditions, then the likelihood of them coming out as reformed, rehabilitated, well integrated citizens is very remote,” he stressed.
The conference ends on Saturday (Feb. 14) and brings together practitioners, members of academia and policy makers concerned with Caribbean crime issues.
Representatives from Latin America, Europe, North America and the Caribbean will present papers examining Crime and Criminal Justice issues regionally and internationally. Topics to be covered include: Crime and Migration, Drug Policy, Crime and the Media, Tourism and Crime, Police Reform and Problems of Corrections.

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