Three Responses To the Government’s New Anti-Crime Measures


Now, if you read my blog regularly, you will know that almost every Jamaican, at home and abroad, has been agonizing over our soaring crime (read: murder) rate – especially since the start of the year. Murders are up some 30 per cent over the same period last year, which is of course very disturbing. Overlaying that is an apparent upsurge in femicides (yes, the murder of women), abductions, rape and child sexual abuse. At least half of the murders have taken place on the western side of the island and not in the area with the highest population (the Kingston/Portmore conurbation). On February 7, political leaders met with the National Security Council for a whole day and the next day held a live-streamed press briefing with the Prime Minister, Attorney General, Acting Police Commissioner and head of the Jamaica Defence Force. I wish I could find a transcript of that briefing – at which only representatives of the mega media group Gleaner/RJR asked questions…The pronouncements made – and subsequent explanations, as well as strategies again outlined in the Throne Speech at last week’s Opening of Parliament – have had a very mixed reception. Nevertheless, crime is the Government’s Number One Priority.

Police at a crime scene.
Police at a crime scene.

The media and some opinion makers apparently believe that the Government had to come up with a “Crime Plan” (although such plans have been ridiculed so many times in the past – “Oh, not another one!” the cynics say). Lawyers of various stripes are having a field day in radio interviews, pontificating and arguing back and forth – as lawyers love to do – on whether the announced strategies (in particular, “preventative detention”) are in fact lawful. Subscribers to another perennial school of thought want to bring back the human rights abusing former policeman Reneto Adams, plus hanging and possibly flogging. “Tough policing!” they cry, although they must admit it has never worked in the past. Amidst all this predictable stuff, the Government has tried to explain what I see as a more nuanced response to the high crime rate, in particular to gender-based violence. It has been much harder to explain to the Jamaican media, which is crying out for big headlines – and to the public in general. Cynicism has, if anything deepened. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, isn’t it?

One thing I would like to mention: There has been a spate of gory videos and photographs circulating in social media, with accompanying rumors about organ harvesting and the like. Facebook is, as usual, the main culprit although they have removed some of these offensive items. Now, 99.99 per cent of these (however convincing they may look) are fake. Ignore them, delete and do not share them and if you really believe one might be genuine, refer it to the police. I can’t imagine what motivates people to do this kind of stuff – to create public mischief by sending the police on endless wild goose chases (they are obliged to investigate)? To stir up an atmosphere of fear and anger? To encourage criminals? They should stop it!  By the way, under our cybercrime legislation this activity is now illegal and there are heavy penalties for it. Jamaicans living overseas are particularly affected by all of this stuff and seem more likely to believe in it than Jamaicans who actually live here; some are working themselves up into a frenzy over the state of their country. Calm down! Panicking is not going to help, at all.

The debate continues. Let’s see how things actually work on the ground.

The Tambourine Army, created by the leader of WE-Change, is seeking recruits. It describes itself as "a radical movement. It is going to be one of the largest coalitions of organisations and individuals in Jamaica working to remove the scourge of sexual abuse, rape and all other forms of sexual violence against our children and our women. The #TambourineArmy is an action-based, results-based movement that is intolerant of silence and victim blaming and shaming. And we are committed to justice and healing for survivors, and changing cultural attitudes towards sexual violence."
The Tambourine Army’s logo.

Here are the responses from two civil society groups. Firstly, the Tambourine Army (a new pressure group that I wrote about recently) issued a statement dated February 12:

Let Aggressors Cool Off: Save the Lives of Our Women and Girls

The new crime plan outlined by the Government presents perhaps the most progressive response to Domestic Violence and in particular Violence Against Women and Girls in Jamaica’s immediate history. The recent spate of killings and rape of our women and girls have left the nation reeling. Women and girls are terrified of negotiating public spaces, and accessing public transportation is seen as perilous and potentially deadly.

We see the government’s plans as encouraging and the beginning of a commitment to respond to issues of Domestic Violence in a progressive manner. We believe that we cannot continue to operate as if it is ‘business as usual’; we need to do things differently in order for us to get the results we want. We note the discomfort being expressed in the public about the proposal for the 1 hour to 24 hours cooling off period, however, we see this as a good use of a provision that is already on the books.

We believe that the men and women of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are fully cognizant of the fact that the rules of the game have changed, and that they are also required to work in the interest of Jamaica’s women and girls. We also want to commend the government’s commitment to the building of two shelters for women who are survivors of domestic violence; we want to assure Prime Minister Holness and Minister Grange that we are watching and we expect to see action around the proposed shelters as soon as possible, especially because this is not a new plan.

We encourage all NGOs, CBOs, opinion leaders and members of corporate Jamaica to show support for the new measures. Debate is of course necessary, and we are happy to see the conversations that are being had about the potential effectiveness of the measures outlined, but we must commit to not reducing this issue to the usual partisan narrative.

For further information, contact:

Nadeen Spence: 1 (876) 832-7773; Taitu Heron: 1 (876) 416-8444; Latoya Nugent: 1 (876) 849-1403

The human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice has also today issued a statement on the topic:

Jamaicans for Justice logo.
Jamaicans for Justice logo.

Enhanced Detention Measures Must Be Accompanied by Safeguards Against Abuse

Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) understands the need for the Government of Jamaica to take effective measures to combat the scourge of crime and violence. The government must not simply “do something,” it must do the right thing.

Preventative detention guidelines/details must be publicly published

We note the recently announced concept of ‘preventative detention,’ which the Attorney General has publicly opined is a lawful measure. JFJ is of the view that the concept and principles behind preventative detention may not be clearly understood by the public or all police officers. While announcing it in the domestic violence context, the government has made clear that it will generally apply to other crimes. For clarity, we ask that the government set out in writing for the public exactly what the concept of preventative detention entails, how it is expected to work on the ground, and the legal underpinnings for the same. We also ask that any guidelines that have been issued to the police in relation to how preventative detention may be utilized to deprive persons of their liberty be released to the public without delay. This would ensure that the public and the police are adequately advised of how it is intended that this concept of preventative detention would be implemented.

Increased powers of detention must be matched with increased safeguards

We endorse the Attorney General’s reminder to the police of their awesome powers and the need to exercise such power in keeping with the law. This comes in a context in which the police already breach existing restrictions on detention, raising concerns about the safeguards that will accompany this new, enhanced measure. Presently, people are frequently detained without charge, mostly in poor communities, not told the reasons for their detention, and are detained for unlawfully excessive periods – leading to serious abuse. With the rollout of this enhanced detention measure, existing safeguards must be strengthened, not diminished, to avoid exacerbating this legacy of abuse. Without this, the well-intentioned strategies of the government may end up producing greater harm than good, as they have in the past.

Introduce written Notices of Detention

In this regard, we ask the Government to institute a requirement for the issuance of written notices of detention for all police arrest and detentions. The notice would include the reason(s) for arrest/detention, and the particulars and circumstances of the detention. This would provide a record for detainees in cases of dispute, and a procedural safeguard against abuse. This written record could take a similar form to the report receipts which are currently being successfully utilized by the JCF.

JFJ has also written to the Attorney General and the Minister of National Security requesting a meeting to discuss our ongoing concerns in relation to detention practices. The ministers would be well aware that it is the public who must pay for any misstep or unlawful detention by our own police officers.

We are all afflicted by crime, so we would all welcome any measure that can lawfully bring a reduction in crime. Let us ensure that by our crime fighting measures, we create partners for peace. We will not create partners for peace by arbitrarily arresting people.

For further information, contact:

John Clarke – 1(876) 275-4486
Rodje Malcolm – 1(876) 329-0320

Gordon Robinson (@TheTerribleTout)
Gordon Robinson (@TheTerribleTout)

Blogger/columnist Gordon Robinson, who’s a lawyer, had very little positive to say, calling the measures an “expensive sham.” He calls Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte “Ms. Malaprop.” He has a point about the “big fish,” though.

The loud wind-sucking noise that swept across Jamaica on Wednesday evening was Jamaicans’ collective gasp as Government unveiled its new “crime plan”. From as far back as December 1, we’d been promised an integrated crime plan by Young Andrew speaking at Rocky Meade’s swearing-in. Then, we were assured the National Security Council (NSC) was finalizing a “comprehensive action plan.” He said:

Government has an unremitting resolve to address crime…”

In 2017, murders have increased by 35% and Jamaica’s fear is palpable. But, citizens held strain because NSC was on it and Bobby “Nephew” Montague bought two ships and second-hand police cars.

Back then, Young Andrew described the coming plan as “integrated” and identified the areas to be “carefully” examined as “deployment, mobility, investigative capacity, procedures and legislation”. In his New Year message, Young Andrew waxed lyrical about the crime plan. He identified violent crime “especially murders” as “the greatest threat to our economic independence” and assured Jamaica that, in 2017, government’s crime plan would make a significant dent in murders.

….the Jamaican people…now….expect firm and decisive action in breaking the neck of the crime monster once and for all…..

“We have a plan to secure Jamaica and in the coming weeks, aspects of the plan that can be made public will be disclosed. We’ll be creating the legislative environment to support the establishment of the rule of law in communities where it’s absent and to separate criminals from communities they’ve captured.

Under this framework, zones where the security forces…..will be able to conduct special long term operations in high crime areas, including extensive searches for guns, contrabands and criminals will be created….

“There’ll be restructuring of the security forces to increase operation and administrative focus on the Western parishes……”

“We are confident that this year will be the break-through year in bringing the crime monster under control while respecting the human rights of every citizen.”

Whew, no human rights to be breached. Never mind that the references to “zones”; “long term operations in high crime areas” (curfews?) and others smacked of the Booklist Boyne Solution. Jamaicans waited for THE plan as Numbeo.com, the world’s largest database of user contributed data about countries, rated Jamaica as having the 14th highest crime rate (2016) amongst 125 countries. In 2017, Numbeo rates Jamaica with the 13th highest crime rate. The 35% murder increase (2017) comes on top of 2016’s 11% increase.

Finally, on Wednesday, Young Andrew, looking very much like an NFL Quarterback breaking a lengthy huddle flanked by Wide Receiver “Nephew” Montague; Tight End Marlene “Malaprop”; Centre Newandiffrent Grant and right guard Rocky Balboa, made his grand announcement. It sounded more like a request for a time-out.

Apparently, zero tolerance is the new buzz-word. We’ll deal with abusive husbands and sexual offenders harshly. If a man should dare lift his hand to a woman a policeman will appear and remove him from the house before the blow falls. DWL!

For THIS we’ve been holding our breaths for over a year? You gotta be kidding? But, no, it’s no joke. Remember Young Andrew did promise, on New Year’s Day to “separate criminals from communities they have captured”. Wednesday’s theme simulated a campaign against domestic violence but that’s obviously a smokescreen hiding the real plan. In Q&A, Ms Malaprop was extraordinarily careful to insist police would act within existing laws but you KNOW I’m going to tell you nothing is as it appears.

The REAL lynchpin of this “new” crime plan is “preventative detention” which is obviously a strategy to re-introduce indefinite detention under a superior disguise. Once police have “reasonable grounds to suspect” (LOL) a crime is “about to be committed” (money intended for computer purchases spent on crystal balls?) they can swoop down on “captured communities”; scrape and lock up “suspected” young men. Then, police will ask a JP to extend the detention and JP, rubber stamp in hand, is unlikely to refuse.

Don’t be fooled by the “domestic violence” facade. Young Andrew AND Ms Malaprop admitted in Q&A “preventative detention” is to apply to ALL CRIMES. This is the government’s way of applying the Booklist Boyne Solution through the back door oblivious to the eternal truth (with apologies to Billy Shakespeare) that crap by any other name smells as stink. On the rare occasion Ms Malaprop was allowed to answer questions without PM’s “help”, she used words like “cooling off period” (repeated by PM) and “no need for court”. What do YOU think this means?

“Friday evening one more time
haffe pay Aunt Joyce fi di lunch las’ week
Mus pay dis day!
An’ mi have a smalls
fi di few hot beer dung a Sandy’s bar
Mus pay dis day!
An’, is always on dis date,
Pansy forward fi har water rate
an at least an eye-glass man
mi haffe put inna she han’…”

Lord, deliver us! On top of the reality facing us every week, Jamaicans must find $20b in new taxes ($82b more than last year overall) to pay for another period of excessive police brutalization of poor citizens under the guise of “zero tolerance”? This IS the Booklist Boyne Solution. It won’t work. This monster we spent 40 years nurturing can’t be killed overnight. This Jamaican crime monster is like a multi-headed Hydra. Booklist Boyne’s Solution seeks to cut off the Monster’s head but it only ensures five more grow in its place. Jamaica’s crime monster must be attacked at its root and our most effective weapons are commitment and patience.

Nobody mentioned one piece of intelligence gathering or analyzing applications; or improved police training (or importing of trained officers); or “investigative capacity”; or reducing police corruption. THAT’s how you try to save some lives now. NOT ONE LIFE will be saved by Booklist Boyne’s Solution. Many more will have to die while we sweep up and detain dozens of “small fry” in inhuman conditions for weeks. Big Fish, often tipped off in advance, will still roam free.

I can’t believe Pearnel Charles or Olivia “Babsy” Grange helped create this “crime plan”. How quickly we forget 1976!

Peace and Love

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte.
Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte.

 


6 thoughts on “Three Responses To the Government’s New Anti-Crime Measures

  1. I have made other statements in regards to part of the solutions! to begin with as in agriculture and the lack of governmental incentives to promote rural farmers to grow our own foods, for a start and less dependence on importations of unhealthy foods! the benefit of with would also boost export of such produce, as a diaspora I see and are subject to the prices of our foods from other countries. And not only that but they been imported and sold by people who are not of the countries of production, and are making a mint. My other main contention is the lack of incentive of the government towards returnees. Considering that, that’s how the economy kicks off in the first by the diaspora, all other country well-come their returnees why can’t they see or acknlwledge the benefits? There are so many who would bring so much to the economy that are reluctant to do so, in spite of the lawlessness! because of the cost that they face with all their belongs.

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    1. I absolutely agree with you, and I very much agree with you on the returning residents. There is much more that could be done for them. They should be welcomed with open arms – the Returning Residents Association has also been very weak and has not really pushed the policymakers to support a robust program that would really encourage them to return…

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  2. The crime situation in the country is an industry, not unlike the tourist industry, although in logic they should run counter to the other. They both help to keep the country in Hack to the I. M. F. & the W. B. Thus keeping the country in a perpetual state of poverty. And therefore are in no position to improve neither living standards, nor infrastructure developments to create employment which is the cornerstone of any developing country. Consequently it is stated by global economist that Jamaica’s debt is impassable to be cleared under the present agreement, and with the continuing lowing of the Jamaican dollar. Logic dictates that you can’t continue to do the same thing over and over and,”Expect a different result.”

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    1. This is a rather depressing assessment. So what do you suggest as a solution? We have to stop pointing out all the problems and actually seek to rectify things! Thanks for your comments…

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