- ‘Operation Hope’, a faith-based initiative undertaken by the Clarendon Police to reduce crime and violence across the parish, has been yielding notable successes.
- Its implementation over five weeks, from May 29 to June 7, focused on alleviating hopelessness, despair, and spiritual and material needs affecting several communities by offering residents, particularly young men, alternatives to a life of crime.
- “It has brought hope to my community, just to see people from the different communities coming out to interact with us. Through this initiative I have realised that God has not forsaken my community.
‘Operation Hope’, a faith-based initiative undertaken by the Clarendon Police to reduce crime and violence across the parish, has been yielding notable successes.
Its implementation over five weeks, from May 29 to June 7, focused on alleviating hopelessness, despair, and spiritual and material needs affecting several communities by offering residents, particularly young men, alternatives to a life of crime.
The concept, which has been successfully implemented in several other communities islandwide, was adopted by the Clarendon Police following a spike in the parish’s crime rate.
It targeted several hotspots, including Farm, Effortville, Bucknor, Bucks Common, Canaan Heights, Juno Crescent, Free Town and Sandy Bay, where the incidence of crime has started showing signs of declining.
Operation Hope’s initial engagements were undertaken in collaboration with members of the Christian community and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), among other stakeholders.
Notable among these were Custos Rotulorum for Clarendon, Hon. William Shagoury; Errol Rattray Evangelistic Association (EREA); the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP); May Pen Ministers’ Fraternal; and members of the business community.
The initiative saw partners interacting extensively with residents in several engagements, including open-air evangelical meetings, community rallies, and children’s treats.
Clarendon’s Commanding Officer, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Fitz Bailey, tells JIS News that he met with partner stakeholders to outline the challenges, explore the solutions and determine how each party could help.
In noting that crime fighting is not restricted to the police, the SSP says “each citizen and organisation has a role to play”.
“There are some issues that I believe are outside of the scope of policing and if we are in partnership with the church and other NGOs, this will go a far way in reducing crime,” he explains.
SSP Bailey says the seeds of change have begun to grow, resulting in, among other things, increased dialogue between residents and the police.
“I have also seen where persons have been employed, and we are now trying to form some youth clubs,” he shares.
SSP Bailey is particularly pleased with the response of the young people, who he says have demonstrated their interest in the outreach activities. This includes their participation in four recently held youth fora, which he describes as an “impactful” experience.
“We are reaching some of the youth whom we would not normally have this level of contact with; and the youth fora was an eye opener for me when I heard them expressing themselves. They want the change, they speak of some of the issues affecting them and they also speak of how they can be a part of the change. I believe the benefit coming out of this initiative is going to be significant,” he tells JIS News.
SSP Bailey is optimistic that Operation Hope will continue to have a positive impact on Clarendon. He premises this on the positive outcome of a similar intervention implemented in the St. Andrew Central Police Division while he served as the Commanding Officer.
He points out that its implementation there resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in murders in the Area 4 Division.
While acknowledging that Operation Hope is not the ‘be all and end all’ for dealing with the parish’s challenges, SSP Bailey believes “it will go a far way”.
“We believe we will continue to reap significant success. For June, if things continue in the same vein, it will be recorded as the month with the lowest count of murder, since the start of the year. I believe everything will result in further crime reduction,” the Senior Superintendent highlights.
Message of Hope
Chairman of the May Pen Ministers’ Fraternal, Rev. Norman King, says Operation Hope has enabled the clergy to bring the message of hope to the residents that all is not lost, noting that “the feedback from them has been good”.
Resident of Canaan Heights, Dwayne Sappleton, tells JIS News that he is grateful for the initiative, especially in his community where persons have started to move about more freely since the partners’ visit.
“It has brought hope to my community, just to see people from the different communities coming out to interact with us. Through this initiative I have realised that God has not forsaken my community. Thanks to everyone who played their part, and I want them to continue the good work and visit more communities with their interventions. This programme is an inspiration to the parish and I trust that everyone will continue to support us,” he says.
President and Chief Executive Officer of Errol Rattray Evangelistic Association (EREA), Errol Rattray, also anticipates a significant decline in Clarendon’s crime rate.
“Once we have fewer killings, that will automatically reduce the fear factor and there will be more fellowship in the community. We are also trying to break the figurative walls and barriers,” he says.
Rev. Rattray underscores the need for the society’s acknowledgment that no single person or organisation has the answer to Jamaica’s crime problem; it requires each citizen playing a role in a collective effort.
Several follow-up activities will be staged over the forthcoming weeks and months.
These include a 10,000-man march, scheduled for July 10 where the dialogue with the community will continue and other engagements undertaken.
The march is an EREA initiative which is carried out in communities impacted by upsurges in crime and violence and serves to signal a stance against these.