JIS News

Story Highlights

  • ‘United for Change’ seeks to rekindle hope in the society and mobilise law-abiding citizens to work together as a united front against crime.
  • The initiative is founded on the strategies of interrupting crime, particularly gang activities; preventing the spread of these activities; and changing group behaviours.
  • Among the innovations being developed to empower citizens in the fight against crime, is a mobile app.

Leaders and experts in crime fighting and prevention, along with a host of other stakeholders, including members of the Diplomatic Corps, came together on Thursday, December 5, to launch the National Security Ministry’s three-pronged crime prevention strategy, ‘United for Change’.

‘United for Change’ seeks to rekindle hope in the society and mobilise law-abiding citizens to work together as a united front against crime.

Addressing a full room at the Police Officers’ Club, on Hope Road in Kingston, National Security Minister, Hon. Peter Bunting, pinpointed trends in crime and violence over the years, and outlined the major steps that the Government has taken to cauterize the problem.

The initiative, Mr. Bunting said, is founded on the strategies of interrupting crime, particularly gang activities; preventing the spread of these activities; and changing group behaviours.

Among the innovations being developed to empower citizens in the fight against crime, is a mobile application, which will offer Jamaicans the opportunity to engage several modes of alerting the police, reporting crime, or to seek assistance.

The application will be launched by the end of January 2014, the Minister informed.

Another key initiative emerging from this multi-sectoral approach to crime fighting is the National Youth Violence Prevention Forum, to be launched in January.

“I am hoping that at this forum, we can get the buy-in of the wider partnership…to share best practices, and figure out collectively, how we can increase the awareness drive and build local capacity,” Mr. Bunting said.

There is also the social intervention thrust, through the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) III. The CSJP focuses on social cohesion and community governance, and employment.

Mr. Bunting informed that Cabinet has approved the programme, which will run for four to five years. It is a US$55 million intervention, funded by the Canadian and British governments, and the Inter-American Development Bank.

The Ministry and law enforcement have already been employing various strategies, which are aimed at bringing about greater citizen participation and collaboration among all stakeholders, in the fight against crime.

The interruption in the transmission of crime strategy is already underway with the launch of Operation Resilience, which is aimed at disrupting negative activities and trends.

“Interrupting transmission is really to get that explosion in gang violence to stop…so there has been the normal type of crime control efforts by the police…moving Commanders around, and trying to get the best fit between Commanders and divisions,” he explained.

Mr. Bunting pointed to some of the results that have so far emerged from this operation, including: 426 operations across the island (mainly targeting gangs); 195 arrests; and the seizure of 142 firearms in October, the highest number for 2013. Importantly, he noted, the majority (63 per cent) of these recoveries were made without the use of deadly force.

He indicated that the police are on target to recover some 800 guns, many of them assault rifles, this year.

As regards preventing the spread of crime, and medium term solutions, the Minister said this involves capacity building. The focus has therefore been on recommendations set out for the development of a National Security Policy. Among these are: removing the profit from crime, which is being targeted by the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA) ; reform of the justice system; community policing; dismantling of gangs; focus on at-risk individuals (CSJP); and the strengthening of legislation.

Speaking to the latter, Mr. Bunting outlined several pieces of legislation which have been passed or are now going through Parliament, such as the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA); the Evidence Special Measures Act; the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provision) Act; the Anti-gang Bill; Trafficking in Persons Bill; the Maritime Drug Trafficking Suppression Act (approved by Cabinet); and the DNA Evidence Bill (final draft being awaited).

The Minister noted that a number of convictions have been made under the Law Reform Fraudulent Transactions (Special Provision) Act, since it was passed in March. He said another 50 persons are now before the courts charged with “relatively strong” cases.

Meanwhile, deliberations on the anti-gang legislation should be completed by the joint select Committee of Parliament, by next week, the Minister said.

Additionally, the capacity of the Force to respond to crime has been improved through a number of measures, including the acquisition of new vehicles at a cost of over $1 billion. Mr. Bunting said this is thrice what was spent on vehicles in previous years.

By March 2014, some 1,300 JCF recruits will be trained, including Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF) recruits, and district constables.

Mr. Bunting informed that there has been a “dramatic” increase in the number of police posts established in communities, and that he has been advocating for police posts in major housing developments.

He emphasised the importance of these posts in supporting community policing, as part of the effort to have the police and citizens work together, as well as to reduce the negative perceptions of the police.

Turning to how the Ministry and law enforcement have been seeking to change group norms, and re-orienting the society towards encouraging anti-crime behaviour, the  Minister said this is a lasting phase of eradicating the violent crime epidemic. To this end, the Ministry has embarked on an extensive programme of public education and resocialisation, to displace negative elements. The CSJP and the National Youth Violence Prevention forum, are two of a number of such initiatives.

Most recently, as part of the social intervention strategy, the Ministry partnered with an international humanitarian group, Art of Living, to take the anti-crime message to students using the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre, via a flash mob presentation, which was used to engage the youth.

“If you drop out of school, you are six times more likely to become a gang member, and if you become a gang member you are ten times more likely to end up in prison or dead, and we don’t want that for you, we want discipline and order,” Minister Bunting told the students.

The ‘Unite for Change’ campaign features television, radio and print commercials, with messages encouraging ordinary Jamaicans, and interest groups, to join forces with the authorities to fight crime.