Thu | Jun 4, 2020

Letter of the day | SOE is like putting finger in a hole in a dam

Published:Wednesday | May 15, 2019 | 12:05 AM


As a young man living and attending school in St James, I would like to add my own perspective to the current discussions on crime in Western Jamaica. Frankly speaking, most of the crime is organised, gang-related and centred around certain illegal activities. It is not wanton and wild in the west, as some would want to believe. In many cases, the persons at the head of these activities are known to the community and certainly to the security forces.

The problem has never been identifying or arresting them, but building a strong enough case to convict these key players and thus dismantle their operations. The appropriate response then should be to increase the investigative capacity of law enforcement to better collect and store finger prints, match ballistics, process crime scenes and increase trust among citizens, so we will feel safe enough to bear witness in court. All this while ensuring the accused are quickly brought before the court for prosecution.

A state of emergency (SOE) does not advance any of these goals.

Furthermore, so long as a criminal enterprise is more rewarding than a legitimate one, criminals will have little work to do in convincing youth to put bullets instead of books in their backpacks. We must diminish the returns on crime and make a show of it. With pressure from the USA, we improved our approach – with ferocity – to stamp out lottery scamming, but more must be done. We must look to bring the informal economy into the formal MSME realm so it can be regulated, attract investment, earn protection under labour and commercial legislation and raise the dignity and rewards that accrue from work such as carpentry, agriculture, cosmetology, dressmaking and the like.


Finally, I suggest the full and immediate implementation of the JamaicaEye surveillance system to monitor activities in public spaces and compliment the investigative and evidence gathering efforts of the security forces. Of late, we have heard no mention of the system as part of a strategic approach to crime fighting and I am left to question how committed the Government truly is to using all available resources to win this fight to save lives.

A state of emergency is like putting your finger in a hole in a dam. How long can Minister Chang keep his finger there? What will he do when fatigue sets in and he has no choice but to lift the finger?

Remember, an SOE is in effect a siege on a community. As we prepare for the summer tourist season will this regional siege, which covers our major resort areas, communicate safety or invoke fear in the minds of potential tourists?


Chairman, Visions (UWI, Western Campus)