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JIS News

As part of its thrust to tackle criminal activities across the country, the Ministry of National Security has embarked on a series of parish consultations to hear the security concerns of residents at the local level. The initiative, called the Parish Crime Prevention Programme (PCPP), has already been launched in Clarendon, St. Elizabeth, St. James, Manchester and Portmore and Spanish Town in St. Catherine. It will be introduced to other parishes in the near future.
Senior Director of the Strategic Planning Policy Evaluation and Research Division in the Ministry, Lieutenant Colonel Oral Khan, explains to JIS News that the programme, which began just over a year ago, identifies communities that are experiencing worrying crime trends.
“The Parish Crime Prevention Programme sees us going into the respective parishes that have been identified, based on the crime situation that has been occurring in those parishes. We go to these parishes and consult with the people and hear their concerns on crime and security issues relating to their respective parishes and from there we develop plans of action to improve security in those parishes,” he says.
He further informs that crime prevention committees are established to implement the recommendations, which come from the people, thus allowing them to engage residents in the various communities in the crime prevention efforts.
Colonel Khan outlines how the parishes in which the programme has been implemented, are chosen.”We identified the parishes based on certain trends that were emerging in the crime pattern. St. Catherine, for example was one of the parishes that had a very high crime rate last year. May Pen in Clarendon recorded high crime levels and the area around Montego Bay and St. James also had a high crime rate. We went to Manchester, not necessarily because of a high crime rate, but we also wanted to ensure that those areas which are relatively safe remain that way. We went to St. Elizabeth because of some worrying trends in that parish,” he points out.Once the programme is established in a parish, concerned citizens and stakeholders are organized to implement recommendations, which come out of the various forums that are held.
“We seek to involve stakeholders from the community, the church, government entities like the Social Development Commission, Youth, the Police and the business community. We are seeking to get the parish councillors involved and so they are also invited to be a part,” Colonel Khan tells JIS News.
Once the recommendations have been received from the various consultations held, the Senior Director says the committees are asked to go through the list of recommendations to determine the ones that are feasible, practical and can be implemented within the parish.
The committees are then asked to help mobilize resources from the community until help comes from outside. “So they have a primary task of seeking to implement the recommendations from the people on the ground and they are guided by a set of terms of reference from the Ministry of National Security and we keep in touch with these communities and offer support,” he says.
The issues to be dealt with at the parish level vary from one area to the next. “There are concerns about praedial larceny in the more rural communities. In most parishes, there are concerns about youth crime or youth involvement in crime as well as opportunities that are available for young people. There are also concerns about sex offences, traffic management in the towns, extortion, and of course, the homicides,” Colonel Khan points out.
As the programme seeks to address some of these issues, the Senior Director notes that they are very encouraged by the response received in every area they have been. “People have come and participated, people have spoken freely and frankly giving a lot of recommendations, a lot of which are practical,” he explains, adding that residents also get an opportunity to hear from the Police Superintendent responsible for the division, who would give a report on what is being done to help improve the situation.From an evaluation conducted a month ago, in which the leaders of these committees were brought in, Colonel Khan says data received indicated that some of the issues have been dealt with in the majority of areas where the crime prevention committees were introduced.
“Now all of this is not necessarily credited to the work of the committee but there is a correlation in that the areas that we have had these committees have tended to show no increase in the incidence of crime and has started to trend in the right direction,” he tells JIS News.
Already, there are plans to expand the programme. “We are moving to another stage in the crime prevention programme and that is to go one step down from the parish committee to what we are calling community safety and security groups,” Colonel Khan explains. “We are going to pay a bit more attention to some of the communities in the Corporate Area, which are plagued with crime and violence,” he says.
There are also plans to look at some communities, which are targeted for special social intervention, a number of which will fall under the community security initiative. Others will be included in the project, which gets off the ground next year.
Colonel Khan points out that where groups are already organized at the community and parish levels, they will be further enhanced. “We will work with those groups and just seek to get them to embrace the agenda of security issues that come out of consultation with the people,” he says.
The Senior Director says that the programme implemented in Montego Bay is probably the most effective of the committees established. “Because of the close link that is there with the business committee and the parish development committee, that model has worked and so what we will do is to build on that,” he says.
For residents who participate in the programme, they are not left on their own, as a Programme Co-ordinator from the Ministry keeps in touch to maintain constant discussion.
While the programme has not yet accomplished all it has set out to do, Colonel Khan is confident that it will assist to reduce crime. “We desire to see a reduction in the incidence of violence. We are hoping to build a network of communities and challenge communities as well, to participate a bit more in bringing about the conditions conducive to safety and security of those communities,” he says.