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A Crusade against Crime

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 13, 2008

The calls have come fast and furious. Newsday has demanded: "Minister Martin Joseph Must Go!" as has Ian Collier, president of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce who called upon the Prime Minister to assume the duties of Minister of National Security. Even my friends at I 95 fm feel that Minister Joseph ought to pack his bags and leave.

Although much of the responsibility of the rising crime wave rests on the shoulders of the Minister of National Security I am convinced equally that without citizens' participation and the government's demonstration that crime is the most important impediment to our society's development that we will never realize developed nation status by the end of the next decade.

I don't know if the Minister ever visits the home of a murdered son and/or daughter to show his sympathy for the bereaved and to reassure the grieving family that the government is doing everything it can to reduce murders in the society. Such outreach would indicate that the Minister cares. It tells citizens that each life is important and each senseless murder diminishes the lives of all citizens.

Mr. Joseph committed an even greater faux pas when he assured the country that the problem of crime would be solved in three years. Such an assurance rings false to the nation's ears. Six murders a day; roughly 400 murders a year; and allowing for an increase of 25 per cent a year, there will be 1,500 deaths within the next three years. Such a forecast is not a welcoming prospect to the nation.

If we factor in the increased revenues from oil and gas over the next three years it seems reasonable to assume that more money in the economy is likely to result in more anti-social behavior and murders. Rather than a decrease at the end of three years one can confidently predict that there will be an increase in crime unless a strategy to solve the problem is shared with the community and translated into a national crusade.

Government alone cannot solve the crime problem. As quiet as it is kept, citizens too, must be a part of any crime solution.

A few days ago, Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica's Minister of Tourism, confessed: "Crime, in my mind, is the singly most debilitating factor, the one area that is worrying to me beyond anything else, and I must tell you that the fuel crisis is not as worrying to me as crime. The turmoil in the aviation industry is not as worrying to me as crime."

From his point of view, the first approach in tackling the crime problem is to acknowledge that it exists and is a threat to one's civilization.

Wayne Cummings, President of Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Industry, observed: "I don't care what Commissioner of Police you have, I don't care which Minister of National Security you get, even though both are important, if Jamaicans don't decide to take back Jamaica from the criminals, then tourism, manufacturing, and other such industries are doomed."

In other words, there can be no Jamaican solution to crime unless the communities are involved. You may fire your Minister of National Security and get a new Commissioner of Police. Unless the communities are involved there can be no solution to your crime problem.

Reinforcing these observations, Jamaica's Commissioner of Police, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, outlined four action areas that can reduce crime, build up citizens' confidence in the police force and strengthen its human capacity: a) dismantling criminal networks where persons involved in criminal activities would be captured and punished. In this regard, it is pertinent to ask Mr. Joseph what has he done with names of the gang members that he has in his possession; b) increase policing which involves cordons and searches; c) setting up curfews; and d) use community policing as a means to engage communities in a crusade against crime.

Some of these action areas are simple and hold enormous possibilities. They signal to the criminal that society is ready to take action; suggests that government's interest in solving the crime problem is genuine; and tells the world that communities cannot be passive by-standers in a plague that is destroying their society. Building confidence in your police force; demonstrating a concern for your citizens and coming up with a shared plan to solve the problem are imperatives to attack the problem of crime.

A government is not a law unto itself. Four months after electing a government that promised to change things in South Korea, over 100,000 persons marched in Seoul to protest against President Lee Myung-bak's "leadership style and his policies on everything from North Korea to education reform programs." Many protested Mr. Lee's arrogant and authoritarian style. One can predict a similar protest against crime in this country if our newly elected government does not change its ways. One cannot ignore the voice of the people without incurring its wrath.

My mother used to say, "The voice of the people is the voice of God." Is anyone listening?

Professor Cudjoe's email address is

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