ON the identical day Shericka Jackson brought honour and glory to her beloved Jamaica, by winning the Women’s 200 metres on the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, a gang of thieves with high-powered rifles carried out a brazen heist on the Manchester branch of Scotia Bank in Jamaica. Press reports backed up by viral video footage, indicated that the lads fled with two large sacks believed to contain money. Six people were shot, three of whom were hospitalized.
The incident reprised a scene from the hit movie “Heat” wherein “Master Criminal” Neil McCauley-played by Robert De Niro-and his men exchange fire with police as they struggle to flee after a bank heist. The one difference between the Jamaica and “Hollywood” incidents was that McCauley’s gang was killed by police, led by Lieutenant Hanna, (played by Al Pacino). That end result was achieved through a mixture of Hanna’s leech-like persistence and a tip-off from a spurned lover.
All law-abiding residents who viewed the video would have hoped the Scotia Bank incident had the identical end result because the movie. Alas, there have been not enough police on the scene and their small arms fire couldn’t match the lethality of the robbers’ weapons. Moreover, it doesn’t appear there was a tip-off concerning the crime before it happened.
Often, in discussions about crime within the Caribbean, there’s a robust expectation akin to a requirement, that Governments must stop crime. As comprehensible as that expectation/demand could also be, it’s unimaginable to stop most crimes unless law enforcement has prior knowledge of the pertinent details: equivalent to WHO is planning the crime, WHERE, HOW, and WHEN?
A more reasonable expectation is that a COUNTRY will take all reasonable steps to make sure that “crime doesn’t pay” and that criminals “pay” for the crimes they commit, as quickly and as effectively as resources allow.
I emphasise COUNTRY to treat one other unreasonable claim: that crime abatement is the responsibility of Governments alone. Often, this expectation is held by individuals who also say “crime is everybody’s business.” If we’re to go by countries with low crime rates, the latter posture is the right one. Crime prevention and control MUST BE a national endeavour with sustained input from all law-abiding residents whether acting alone or as a part of an organisation, business, or community.
Elements of a National Approach
How can we “nationalize” crime prevention and control? A straightforward answer can be: by engaging as many law-abiding residents as possible in identifying root causes and drivers of crime and in proposing workable solutions.
There isn’t any perfect template for creating a very national consultative mechanism that extends beyond Castries. Nevertheless, I favour the establishment of a two-tier consultative framework as follows:
A top tier comprising representatives of key national stakeholders including key Government, private sector and civil society entities and a representative (chairperson) of the Constituency Councils.
A second tier comprising members of every constituency council, together with representatives of civil society organisations based in a selected constituency.
I envisage that this arrangement will allow for sharing of opinions, ideas and suggestions inside and amongst members in each tiers on trends, issues, opportunities and threats related to the fight against crime. Importantly, it should empower community organisations to play a job in crime abatement.
Towards a national policy and strategy on crime
Talk that doesn’t result in motion is meaningless. I subsequently propose that the initial focus of consultations inside and among the many tiers must be towards the formulation and implementation of a national policy and strategy on crime prevention and control. Through the years, various administrations have commissioned technical studies and held national consultations on crime in Saint Lucia-including one which I facilitated circa 2005/2006. Nevertheless, I’m not aware these efforts ever resulted in a national policy and/or strategy. I’ve at all times been of the view that good policy begets good laws and methods and so, the absence of those foundational instruments explains quite clearly and convincingly why we’re, where we’re with crime in Saint Lucia.
Key policy and strategy elements
The compelling evidence from countries with low crime rates indicates that their success is due a mixture of the next:
Strong deterrence achieved through tough, progressive laws, conceived by an alert, focused and determined executive, enacted by a responsive and committed legislature and applied via an efficient, high-class judicial system.
Effective enforcement by an even-handed, incorruptible, and well-resourced police force/service that goals for excellence in its policing capabilities, and that maintains a robust bond with the community that it serves.
Sound rehabilitation supported by an efficient and humane correctional system. ( Singh J, 1998).
Due to interdependence amongst these three domains, motion in just one in all them won’t suffice; for indeed, enforcement is just as effective as deterrence which is just as effective as rehabilitation. An individual can be less prone to commit or repeat against the law in the event that they know they are going to face swift and firm justice.
The “Epidemiology” of Crime
As critical as these elements are, they don’t begin to deal with the total range of public expectations regarding government’s role and responsibility in against the law abatement scheme. Take this comment by a street vendor on the Jamaica incident: “These guys (gunmen) must get some work…they should do higher and stop make people should undergo all of those problems,” she said.
The link between poverty, unemployment and crime is usually raised in discussions about crime. It’s hard to dismiss the argument that if someone has a job that affords them adequate food, clothing and shelter, they’re less prone to commit against the law. Still, the undeniable fact that many crimes are committed by those that have jobs, leaves us to conclude that the temptation to commit crime would likely be irresistible for many who perceive that crime pays greater than decent, honest, labor. This statement raises issues about societal values which I consider to be at the center of crime abatement.
Many of us find it hard to imagine criminality can thrive in small Caribbean States. Nevertheless, research in several countries suggests the scale of a rustic doesn’t matter as much because the values that outline that society. Further, research also reveals that no less than one member of a society wittingly or unwittingly aids and abets against the law either by knowing who committed it and never informing the police about it-possibility out of fear-or by benefiting directly or not directly from it. In lots of cases, stolen goods are recovered in homes which might be occupied by no less than one member of the family or friend of the one that committed the crime. Very seldom can we hear about arrests, prosecutions and convictions of accessories to crime. This will likely be an oversight, but I firmly imagine that until we do, we won’t get a handle on the crime problem.
The importance of information
The utility of information/evidence-based decision-making in crime abatement can’t be overstated. At this point, Government must have comprehensive data on the socio-economic character of every of the roughly 50,000 households in Saint Lucia. This data must be the idea on which crime prevention strategies are developed and help make sure that social assistance is targeted at “at-risk” individuals in each household, and/or community. The crime hotspots are well-known, but we’d like to know way more than we now do concerning the circumstances of at-risk families in these hotspots. Moreover, we’d like to know the strategies which might be working and people who should not. It will guide public investment within the police.
We should have urgent and solid strategies to deal with the basis causes and drivers of crime, if only to make sure that public investment goes into the proper areas. One area of crime prevention and reduction abatement that I consider to be under-resourced is community policing. It is extremely unlikely we will see the specified returns from public investment in crime prevention, until law-abiding residents take personal responsibility each individually and communally to guard themselves, their property and their neighbourhood from criminals. Further, the community has a key role to play in reintegrating people into society.
The formation of neighbourhood watch groups ought to be encouraged and formalized with advice and assistance from the RSLPF and the Ministry of Community Development. If this has not already been done, I like to recommend that a post of Assistant Commissioner of Police with specific responsibility for Crime Prevention be created throughout the RSLPF and that a trained Community Police Officer be assigned to every police station.
The State won’t ever have enough resources to place into law enforcement and rehabilitative elements of crime abatement. The safety levy will allow extra money to go towards strengthening logistics management and forensic capabilities of the RSLPF. Nevertheless, there should be clear justification for investment being requested as whether it’s having the specified impact. For instance, we would ask: Has the availability of additional vehicles to the RSLPF improved its response time to reports of crime?
From all reports, the Forensic Lab has greatly enhanced the crime detection and prosecutorial capabilities of the RSLPF, because it was established about 20 years ago. The strengthening of this facility ought to be given the very best priority, with an emphasis on staff training and technology enhancement. If it has not yet been done, a value profit evaluation of getting the lab to perform tests which might be now outsourced can be a step in the proper direction; as would twinning arrangements with more advanced labs in Taiwan, Singapore and the US (FBI).
Whither the RSLPF
The situation with the RSLPF is critical and urgent enough to justify treatment in a separate commentary. For the moment, it’s sufficient to say what many have said: that the Force may gain advantage from a comprehensive overhaul of its capability, systems, procedures and personnel. As a start, the operations of the Force ought to be fully digitized from front desk to police vehicle to community police stations and police headquarters. Each police officer and each police vehicle ought to be equipped with a lap top with reporting templates which should assist with speedier preparation of reports on crime, traffic accidents and with crime risk surveys.
Crime abatement is at all times work in progress; but we are able to make progress provided that we’re clear concerning the goals, objectives, strategies, objectives, inputs, and desired results.