BY: JELANI GRANT
On the Canadian Travel Advice and Advisories website, it is recommended that travellers exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to Jamaica. The advisory describes armed robbery, gang-related violence, and sexual assaults as the leading cause for this warning.
This year, delegates came together to present strategies that can tackle one of the country’s most challenging issues. As the last presentation of day one, the future of crime management forum attracted a full room of Jamaican Diaspora.
Minister of National Security Robert Montague, head of Diaspora Crime Intervention and Prevention Task Force Dr. Rupert Francis, and Former Senior Superintendent of UK Metropolitan Police Dr. Leroy Logan formed the crime prevention panel, with the University of the West Indies Professor Anthony Harriott as mediator.
Dr. Logan announced that he is working with Fight For Peace, supporting youth affected by violence, in both Jamaica and the UK. Dr. Logan is also the chair of the Black Police Association Charitable Trust.
The panel of crime prevention specialists was given a maximum of ten minutes to deliver their strategies, however, Minister Montague used approximately an hour and a half to ensure his entire presentation was explained thoroughly. Though the following day, some of the diasporas would criticize the time he took, the facts and strategies he proposed were not to be taken lightly. “The Minister made some very critical, important points, and he did so in a humorous way but the points shouldn’t be lost on us”, said Professor Harriott.
Dr. Francis appeared in agreement as he began his presentation by saying, “As a member of the Diaspora, we appreciate everything that you have said and in the manner that you said it”.
Some of the points Minister Montague discussed were crime statistics that, from January to June of last year, showed sexual assaults, aggravated assault, break and entry, larceny, and robberies have gone down since last year while shootings and murder have risen by 20%. “No matter what else is going down, as long as murder is going up, crime is going up”, he said.
Overall, the Minister said crime has decreased by 5% from January to June of 2017, but until murder rates go down the perception will be that crime is on the rise.
“In the last week, we discovered fifteen weapons, including seven high-powered rifles”, he said, referring to the week before the conference.
Montague announced that in July they captured two of Jamaica’s most wanted criminals and law enforcement has seen an increase in the takedown of weapons.
Montague told the crowd that on the 800 km coastline stretch there are fourteen formal points of entry, but he noted that a recent survey revealed there are at least 145 illegal points of entry. The Minister pointed to this as one of the greatest challenges for keeping illegal imports out of the country.
U.K. delegate Beverly Johnson who specializes in logistics asked the panel when the footpaths off the coast would be removed, in order to reduce the trafficking of drugs and guns. Montague responded by saying the Ministry of National Security is currently working on a new system for better monitoring of the coasts.
“Unfortunately, a lot of our citizens are feeling frightened, helpless and powerless in the face of crime”, said Montague. “I would like to inform you that the majority of crimes committed are targeted, not random, therefore if we unite as a people, we can overcome what confronts us”.
Though he said Minister Montague covered a number of his points, Dr. Francis noted that the crime in Jamaica is currently impacting all people of Jamaican descent. “It’s not just the stakeholders who are involved in reducing crime, assisting people in crime like the police force and army…but it’s you and me. We are here, right now we must embrace this issue of crime as one nation”, he said.
With limited time, Dr. Francis reminded delegates they are working diligently to improve crime management, but that every citizen has a choice to help them by reporting on crimes.
Minister Montague also had a list of suggestions for civilians to do their part in fighting crime. One suggestion included the Stay Alert app on Google Play, which offers a number of features including sending anonymous reports to police, Panic Mode which alerts police to an emergency or receiving important information concerning their safety.