Today I will briefly update Parliament on the crime statistics for 2014, our short term response to the January 2015 spike, and outline some of the strategic measures being taken to improve the long-term effectiveness of our policing strategy.
In 2014, there was an overall reduction of 16% in serious and violent crime. In what was a breakthrough year in the fight against crime; every category showed double digit reductions: murder down 16%; shooting by 12%; rape by 23%; and aggravated assault by 17%. Acquisitory crimes were also down by more than 10%.
A 16% across the board reduction in a single year is very significant and compares favourably with almost any other area of our social or economic life. It is the lowest murder figure recorded since 2003 and represents a 40% reduction over the last five years.
It is important to understand what contributed to this performance, and I will highlight a few areas.
The merger of the ISCF with the JCF eliminated the administrative duplication of a parallel command structure and freed up more personnel for operational duties. The strength of police presence we saw on the streets and in communities last year was in great measure due to the policy decision to merge the two Constabularies.
The new emphasis on the crime prevention work of the Ministry through the Unite for Change initiative, which recognizes that violence has multiple causes and therefore requires effectively coordinated responses from multiple sectors. The Unite for Change approach accepts that an important step in reversing an epidemic is changing group behaviour norms around the transmission of the disease, or specifically in our case of a violence epidemic, changing the culture of violence and tolerance of criminals and criminal behaviour.
As part of this initiative, significant energy was put into stakeholder building and public education efforts. The Ministry organized scores of events to educate and sensitize the citizenry and the police to the new approach. These events have taken various forms: media campaigns, presentations to MDAs, presentations to FBOs, NGOs, and community groups; peace marches, and school peace rallies. Just as important, we have partnered with parenting organizations to promote positive messaging and forged partnerships between churches and police leadership in various divisions.’
Change the paradigm of policing. While the police force is only one of the many actors in crime prevention, their role is critical to the outcomes we must achieve. So in 2014, we focused on changing the paradigm of policing. Specifically, we looked at reversing the approach of the paramilitary style of policing that had dominated for three decades and started a process of culture change to:
- Promote proximity policing i.e. where police personnel are embedded in the community primarily on foot patrols, get to know and understand the residents, and develop relationships of trust. The police have been issued guidance to avoid arresting citizens for minor offenses, such as possession of small quantities of ganja, which only contribute to hostility towards the police and to overcrowding in lockups. This guidance resulted in 5,435 fewer arrests in for minor offences in 2014 vs. 2013.
- Hold officers and men stringently accountable for the use of force
and improving the planning of operations to minimize the likelihood of casualties, and;
- Progressively civilianize the dress and appearance of the police, i.e. less blue denim, body armour, and assault rifles and more civilian dress.
As I pointed out in my New Year’s Day letter of commendation to the JCF, I was particularly pleased with the 54% reduction in police fatal shootings, which reflected greater attention to the appropriate use of force. The virtual elimination of the use of curfews was another signal of increased concern with citizens’ right to freedom of movement…READ MORE