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Those who know me know that I prefer to have ‘clean’ discussions. By that, I mean making sure that the topic is well understood, and that we try to not mix things up in getting to a understanding of the problem. It takes time, but it’s worth it, so that solutons, if any, can be seen to be aimed at tackling the right things. I am not keen on doing things for the sake of doing. So, on crime, I have made a plea and happily repeat it, while the sounds levels rise and the hints of hysteria increase.

Jamaica does not have A CRIME problem. Jamaica has MANY CRIMES problems. Why do I make that distinction?

It’s important when people talk about removing civil liberties to address crime to realize what they may have in mind as their target criminals, and if they succeed what criminals and crimes will be left in our midst. My impression is that people’s major focus is on murders, because of continued recent increase in that crime. But, as I have also said, the JCF told us consistently that other crimes were trending down. So, without murders, the narrative was that Jamaica as being DECRIMINALIZED. 

Now, let’s not get out of whack. Jamaica still has high crime levels, if that narrative is true. But, I want to make sure I am content for the right reasons.

The JCF will soon offer us the results of their analysis of 2016 crime data. But, let’s look at what we know about 2015 and crime in general in Jamaica. The US State Department Diplomatic Service prepared a 2016 report on ‘crime and secrity’ in Jamaica, which looked back at 2015, from which I will borrow:

It’s general view was ‘Organized crime elements are prevalent and extremely active. Most criminal activity is gang-related’.

  • Arrests made in 45 percent of homicides (murders).
  • SEVEN percent of those accused were convicted and sentenced. ‘This leads both the public and police to doubt the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, leading to vigilantism, which exacerbates the cycle of violence.’…’most civilians fear that the authorities cannot protect them from organized criminal elements and could be colluding with criminals, leading citizens to avoid giving evidence or witness testimony.’

So, for homicides to be tackled effectively, justice needs to be seen to be done. For crime fighting to work, confidence in the honesty and integrity of the police must rise. 

So, we must ask ourselves whether the curtailment of civil liberties will address those basic systemic failings. If it will not, then please think about what it will be doing.

    The US report goes on to discuss other major areas of crime, in part because of their particular impact on US citizens but also to cover the land properly: mainly, sexual assaults, burglaries, scamming and cyber crimes.

    If you follow local news, you will read many reports of sexual assaults, and we have another case with a twist running now (a pastor accused of raping a minor). We should know that the Office of the Children’s Registry report each year over 10,000 cases of abuse of children (not just sexual). So, my natural question is ‘Will the curtailment of civil liberties address child abusers?’ If I could answer my own question, I think hardly likely. However, if locking down communities, stop and search, searches without warrants are going to sharply reduce this set of crimes, then I can see that we may have some happier homes and safer children. 

    I’m not ignoring the other heinous domestic abuse cases, especially against women. Will we have safer spaces for women?

    Anecdotally, we know that many crimes like burglaries go unreported and the cycle of mistrust of the police and the ineffectiveness of their efforts to catch criminals mean that most people don’t feel reporting such crimes will address the problem. Instead, they rely on other measures, including deterrents as well as increased personal security measures (guards, alarms, weapons). But, again, my question is what will curtailment of civil liberties mean for the rate at which such crimes are committed?

    I ask these questions not to reduce the importance of the scary prospect of being killed, but as a reminder of what will be left behind IF WE WERE TO REMOVE ALL THE KILLERS. 

    I would like someone to perhaps estimate how much card skimming will be reduced (both at ATMs and points of sale).

    Is there a projected reduction in the amount of lotto scamming that will occur? (To the extent that some significant part of homicides are the result of activities in the lotto scamming area, removing those killers may reduce such scamming, but the link is not clear.)

    I dont want people to think that the world of curtailed civil liberties is a world that will ‘all of a sudden’ be a safer one. 

    Now, if those who want to make such proposals want to paint me a clear picture of how the world will look AFTER the sweeps have been done, and tell me that the changes are going to be permanent, I will think hard about whether I want to be a possible victim of the curtailed liberties.

    As an aside, I have to recall what it was like in a time and place where such curtailed liberties existed, though it was not a general state, just a law that affected certain people more, and what it was like to be a target. 

    When the UK had the ‘Sus’ (suspicion) laws, when police could stop and search on the basis of suspicion, being a young black man was rough. I recall the night I was stopped and questioned, on my way home from university, after a night training with the football team, because I ‘fit the description’ (of a tall, fair skinned man…I’m 5 feet 9, and black). Dark and alone, I should have been scared, not least because of the reputation of the police in such situations. I did not resist,e except to question the obvious flaw in what was the motive for stopping me. I was armed with a quick brain and a little knowledge of the law. My bag was searched and my reeking football kit was given an airing. This was in the days before cell phones, so I could not call anyone as I as cornered in a shop doorway by two white policemen. I took their badge numbers and told them that I would report them for harassment as soon as they let me go. They radioed and had a conversation, then ‘let me go’. I went to the police station that was about half a mile away and reported the incident straight away. I asked to call my parents, to tell them what had happened, and that I would get home as soon as I could. They did not need to get me. 

    I have an idea of whose doors and whose communities may be affected by the nice sounding suggestions of curtailed liberties. I have lived in uptown Jamaica and I am pretty sure that it is not there. But, if I am wrong, I stand to wait and see how the areas of Norbrook and Cherry Gardens, etc will react. 

    Some would say that the places to lock down first may be the many churches in this country. Contentious? Have it your way!

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