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Speech
Minister of Transport and Mining, Hon. Robert Montague

Statement to the Parliament by the

Honourable Robert Montague, MP,

Minister of National Security on the recent flare-up of violence in St. James

 

Preamble: Just before going into my statement, I would like to urge everyone to be calm. Panic and knee-jerk responses cannot and will not solve our problems, neither will panic confront crime. In my sectoral presentation to this House I outlined our crime management strategy and programmes. These programmes are coming together. It will not be an instant fix, but this House must be updated as to where we are, and how we have been responding.

Introduction and Context:

In the past 14 days, criminal gangs in the second city of Montego Bay and several rural communities in St. James, have shot and killed 23 persons, and shot and injured 13 persons, triggering alarm and concern in the West and throughout the country.The Government condemns these barbaric murders in the strongest possible terms, and expresses its regret and condolences to the families, loved ones
and communities in western Jamaica, who are in mourning and distress at this time. I recognise that many of you are feeling helpless, hopeless and powerless; but you need not be! Join the fight against crime in your community, cooperate with the police, be partners with the Government because you know this Government cares, and you know that this Minister understands!

To our men and women in uniform, who have put their lives on line, let me clear that this Minister stands with you, the Government is fully behind you, and a grateful nation expresses its appreciation for the work you do under severe stress and strain.

Today, I can report that through the efforts of our security forces, we have cauterized the situation in St. James. To date, the Police have arrested the two main perpetrators of the violence, recovered three guns and 66 rounds of ammunition, and seized a car involved in some of the shootings. They have also detained 98 persons, 37 of whom have been arrested and charged. There are still trouble spots, and criminals who are determined to create mayhem, and we anticipate one or two incidents as we continue this operation.

The House must be made aware, as has been stated by the Commissioner of Police, that there seems to be a nefarious undercurrent to some of the activities in St. James. The Ministry of National Security is carefully watching this, and the police have been asked to increase intelligence assets on the ground.

Let me point out that the Ministry has provided all the resources required by the security forces in the current operations, and stand ready to provide
more if required. By law, the operational responsibilities for fighting crime lie with the Commissioner of Police, and not with the Minister of National Security. The
Ministry will provide the policy support and resources for the security forces, and we have been doing so.

Crime in Jamaica is a multidimensional problem that requires multifaceted responses. This administration does not have a switch to turn on and off crime in this country. Crime did not start today.

We are dealing with a pandemic that has been in motion from 15 to 20 years ago. We are reaping the whirlwind of the seeds of fractured family structures, poor parenting or lack thereof in homes, poor educational outcomes, negative socialization and the peer associations that encourage delinquency and the joining of gangs that now manifest as a heartless scammer or a teen-aged gunman with
murderous intent.

We didn’t get here overnight. Real solutions to this crime problem will take time, commitment, resources and sincere cooperation across the divide of this Honourable House. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and this Administration has begun to take those steps. We call upon all members of the society to unite to overcome the number one challenge facing this country, because we will not grow and prosper if we are not safe.

We must destroy and eliminate lottery scamming; a crime that Jamaica cannot afford. We see the manifestations in broken families, destroyed lives, fearful communities and damage to Brand Jamaica. Lottery scamming did not originate in Jamaica, but because of lack of strategic direction and focus, we have allowed it to grow and today it stands before us a monster.

Theill-gotten gains from lottery scamming continue to be a source of funding for criminal activities, and accounts for much of the bloodshed we have witnessed over the past fortnight. The damage to families, communities and our national brand has been incalculable.

As a nation, we must resolve to turn our backs on lottery scamming. We must support the police and the anti-lottery task force, which was reconstituted in August of this year. We must support the Police when they target the scammers. We must support them when they are arrest the scammers, and we must support the criminal justice system when the extradition orders are applied for.

We, as legislators must support the changes to the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act, which are seeking harsher sentences for those convicted. It is the least we can do!

Responses:

Having framed the context of the crime situation in our country, I would like to say to the people of western Jamaica to be of good courage and to set your faces against the criminal minority, who would seek to destroy your lives and your peace. Let me now outline some of the measures being taken by the Ministry ofNational Security and the security forces to maintain law and order and the
peace in western Jamaica, and other trouble spots in the island:

Short term Measures:

o We have established a Joint Police-Military Operating Centre in Montego
Bay.

o Increased the number of police and military personnel in the region, as well as in other hotspots across the country.

o Increased intelligence assets, which have been deployed in areas of operation.

o The Commissioner of Police has instructed that serving of all warrants and summonses in police stations must be delivered within two weeks.

o Curfews have been imposed.

o Cordon & Searches have been implemented.

o Mobile patrols and Vehicle Checkpoints have been increased.

o The Maroon Town Police Station re-opened and staffed.

o A generator is being procured for the Montego Hills Police, and will be installed shortly.

o The Police Commissioner has informed of the splitting of parish of St. James into two Police Divisions.

o The Commissioner is also moving with dispatch to improve public confidence in the Police in Area 1 by instituting random lie detector tests and other measures, and he will announce these confidence building measures later.

o The recent release of video evidence has been brought to our attention. The Police Commissioner has resolved that the perpetrator will be named, investigated and the necessary actions taken thereafter. We cannot allow incidents like these to stand. It destroys public trust and undermines the effectiveness of the Police.

o The Anti-Lottery Scamming Task Force has been revived since August and given added resources.

o A telephone number manned by senior police personnel in St. James has been set up for citizens to call in confidence to share what they know. The
number is 9524396. Calls to this number have yielded significant intelligence leads.

o Civic and business and church leaders have been engaged.

o Air and marine assets have deployed in the theatre of operations

o 38 police vehicles will be repaired under Operation Quick Fix, and five
have been deployed since Monday.

o 10 pre-owned cars have been procured and will be deployed to Area 1 next
week.

o A permanent Police Mobile Reserve is in the process of being established
in St James.

o A redesigned and expanded CCTV network, of which the design work has been completed for installation in St. James

o A Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry and the Umbrella Group of Churches is ready for signing. This MOU treats with the protocols governing how members of the clergy handle wanted persons, illegal guns and contraband.

o The Public Order Committee of Cabinet is actively looking at the report of the Joint Select Committee Parliament on INDECOM. This Government and this Minister support the mandate of INDECOM, and we will continue to press for amicable and practical collaboration between the JCF and INDECOM in the interest of the citizens of the country. In that regard, we are carefully looking at the recommendations and will make an announcement shortly.

o We are also pleased to announce that after weeks of engagement, the JCF and INDECOM have concluded discussions on an MOU and the document is ready
for signing, this document outlines the protocols governing the engagement of INDECOM and the JCF going forward.

We believe that both the JCF and INDECOM should work together in the interest of the country.

o In other short-term measures, discussions are set to commence with the Lay Magistrates/Justices of the Peace for the development of a MoU.

o The Parish Consultative Committees have been revamped

o A lawyer is to be engaged in St. James to help clear and build case files.

o We have almost concluded discussions with the Government of Cuba for a forensic pathologist to engaged and dispatched to St. James in short order.

o A media saturation programme- ‘Creating a Safer Jamaica’- was launched today.

o We are increasing the promotion of the Stay Alert App in western Jamaica and encouraging citizens to download this useful security tool.

o The ‘Get the Guns campaign’ has been revitalized; in fact, as we speak, the JCF is promoting this successful initiative at a press event in Montego Bay.

o We also increased the recruitment of members for JDF.

o We have also increased the intake of JCF recruits for 2016. The recruitment intake has been doubled since this year.

o 200 more JCF graduates are to be stationed in St James by end of December.

o The Cornwall Dairy building is being retrofitted by the JDF Engineering Regiment to house an augmentation force of the JCF.

o We are ramping up the use of technology in policing and security surveillance and in the safeguarding the integrity of our borders

o We are collaborating with e-Gov Jamaica to merge MNS databases to make real time information available to the police on duty in the field.

o e-Gov is also building out network for privately-owned CCTV systems to feed into JCF system.

o We have already engaged the Ministry of Local Government to mandate any housing development of over 400 units to establish a police post and a CCTV network.

o The Commissioner of Police has instructed that all entertainment events catering for 1,000 or more patrons must have in place CCTV and metal detectors, and that the promoter must retain the footage of the event for 30 days.

Medium Term

o 200 pre-owned vehicles are being procured for allocation across Police
divisions.

o Two Coast guard bases will be established in Western Jamaica, one in Savanna-la-mar, the other at the Montego Bay cruise ship pier. Both will accommodate coast guard & infantry.

o We are committed to upgrading police stations islandwide, but in
particular in St James.

o 40 dogs are being secured from Cuba for drug and gun detection in the fight against trafficking of narcotics in addition to search and rescue.

o We are also having discussions with Ministry of Housing to upgrade informal communities.

o Procuring 20 mobile police stations.

Legislative Agenda

Jamaica is a stable democracy; underpinned by those principles that safeguard the constitutional and human rights of its citizens. As a Government, we are committed to the enactment of just laws for the economic, social wellbeing and safety of the people of Jamaica.

Mindful of the fact that we do not manufacture guns or ammunition in Jamaica, much of the Ministry of National Security’s legislative activity is centred on the illegal use of the gun, as 70% of our crimes are committed with the gun, We observed in one of the shooting incidents among rival gangs in St. James that the Police recovered more than 180 spent shells from the scene.

Note also that,

§ Cabinet has approved further amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act to take the profit out of crime, and we look forward to the full support of
both Houses of the Parliament, and we will further move to add praedial larceny under that act.

§ A comprehensive review of the 1867 Constabulary Force Act is underway in keeping with the efforts to modernize the JCF and to mould it into a citizen safety and peacekeeping force as against a militia force that is embodied in the current legislation.

§ The new Road Traffic Act has been tabled.

§ Work continues on the Noise Abatement Act and Offensive Weapons Act.

§ We will shortly bring to the House more legislative measures targeting crimes committed with the gun. We seek the support of both sides with this
legislative programme.

§ We must place our emphasis on the gun. We must remove the gun from the hands criminals.

§ We must clearly as a nation, let all know that gun crimes will be dealt with harshly.

Social intervention:

A key pillar in the Ministry of National Security’s Crime Management strategy is Crime Prevention through Social Intervention, where in partnership with local and international stakeholders, we are systematically
tackling as a Ministry some of the root causes of crime, which I enumerated earlier in my statement.

Defeating crime means we must reduce illiteracy, and that we must equip our people to amicably resolve their disputes and conflicts. In this fiscal year, the Ministry of National Security is significantly increasing its social interventions in communities through programmes like the Citizen Security and Justice Programme, (CSJP) and the JCF’s Community Safety and Security Branch (CSSB) and others.

Above all, we must focus our resources on diverting the young people away from the gangs and criminal activity and offer them viable solutions and alternatives; and in this regard we are all our social intervention
programmes, including the CSJP and the Peace Management Initiative.

Conclusion:

This Government is re-framing the conversation about crime and violence in this country. We are saying that if there’s one thing we can all agree on in this country, is that together we can make Jamaica safer.  We must first begin by looking into ourselves and consider how we mistreat our workers when we construct major projects and make no provisions for
them.

Business men must look into themselves, when they change the US dollars for scammers, selling them goods, and buying goods from these scammers off the books.

Business people must look into themselves for not paying their fair share of taxes

Developers must look into themselves, when they sell the houses for cash to scammers.

From car dealers who sell vehicles to lottery scammers to pastors and citizens who accept money from lottery scammers; there is room in our society for deep introspection.

Mothers, grandmothers and girlfriends must look into themselves when they decide to wash the bloody clothes, when they hide the guns and ammunition, and when they lie and say that the gun-toting boy is an angel.

We have all been weighed and found wanting. It is time to admit to our wrongs, stop the destructive criticism, and unite for action.

Crime transcends politics, religion, and class. Every one of us in this House has had to manage the terrible pain and fallout from crime and violence in the communities we represent. Today, let us resolve to draw a
line in the sand. No longer can we afford to bury our heads in the sand

• Together, we can do better in how we behave in our public spaces- how we use the road, how we choose not to vend in the non-designated places, how men choose not to urinate on the roadside, and how we all choose not to litter our public thoroughfares and public facilities.

• Together, we can do better in how we behave in families and domestic settings- we can stop the abuse of children, we can stop now the violence in the home that has led to so much bloodshed and death.

• Together, we can do better in how we behave in business- the issues of bribery, corruption, extortion and exploitation of workers have eroded our business culture and hampers our movement in the global businessrankings.

• Together, we can all do better in our wider culture and way of life- truancy and school drop-out, gang violence, coarseness and aggressiveness
and our perennial fascination with ‘beating the system.”

Together, we can do better; we must lead our people to do better as we go after the root causes of crime and violence in our society. As I told the citizens at our National Citizen Security Conference in Montego Bay in July, where over 2,000 persons attended, we must talk through the issues, and we must cooperate to fight the biggest challenge we face as a country.

I stand with law-abiding citizens of Montego Bay, who have been cooperating with the Police and sharing information confidentially, and without fear. Notwithstanding the challenges we face, the spirit of Sam Sharpe is alive and well in the hearts of the people. As we move to solutions in the near term, be assured that your concerns are being dealt with by a caring Government and Minister.

I again offer my thanks to the security forces for their quick response. I commend the Commissioner of Police and the Chief of Defence Staff for increasing their numbers at short notice, and for their exemplary professionalism in conducting their operations in the affected communities, and for observing and respecting the human rights of the citizens. I also wish to thank the media for exercising sensitivity and due respect for the victims and families of violent crime in their reporting and commentary.

The programmes and policies of the Ministry of National Security are well thought out, and we will do our very best to:

Divert our youth from a life of crime; Detect criminal activity using cutting edge intelligence & technology,

Deter reoffending through rehabilitation and redemption;

And move towards the grand design for a new Jamaica, a place of peace and prosperity, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do
business.