Capitalise on state of emergency's effectiveness

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

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The data released by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) last week that the country has seen a 16.8 per cent reduction in serious and violent crimes for the period January 1 to August 18 is indeed encouraging.

According to the police, there were 175 fewer homicides, or a 17.6 per cent reduction, compared to the 994 homicides recorded for the similar period in 2017.

Shootings, the JCF said, also saw a drop of 15.1 per cent to 734 compared with 865 last year; rapes went down by 158, from 328, or by 15.5 per cent; while a total of 224 aggravated assaults were reported, compared with 283 in 2017.

The police also reported that acquisitive crimes shoplifting, burglary, theft, and robbery have decreased by 8.1 per cent. In this category, larceny was the only crime which saw an increase, moving from 92 to 103 incidents, while robbery fell from 757 to 683, and break-ins dropped from 821 to 749.

Overall, as we said, the numbers are encouraging, even as they demonstrate to us that this country still has a long way to go in its fight against crime.

To us, though, the data is indicative of the effectiveness of the security measures put in place by the Government to combat what was a spiralling crime rate in some sections of the island.

Readers will recall that up to late last year the people of St James were being subjected to vicious, brutal and brazen acts of crime. That forced the Government to impose a state of public emergency in the parish that has generally cauterised the bloodletting.

A look at the JCF's 'Serious and violent crimes report' shows that for the period January 1 to August 11, there were 60 murders in St James, compared to 188 over the same period last year — a decrease of 68.1 per cent. Shootings were also down 61, compared to 140 last year, a 56.4 per cent reduction. There were 12 fewer robberies 26, compared to 38 last year.

In the St Catherine North Police Division, where a state of emergency was declared in March, murders dropped from 81 to 70 over the January 1 to August 11 period, a decrease of 13.6 per cent. There were 20 fewer incidents of shootings, a decrease of 27.4 per cent; while robberies dropped from 99 in 2017 to 62, a decrease of 37.4 per cent.

While we share the view that the state of emergency is not a long-term measure to combat crime, the fact is that it is having a positive effect in the two areas where it is now in effect.

The Government has said that it has embarked on several strategies to fight crime, including operational procedures, institutional changes, policy enhancement, and legislative amendments to address inadequate, outdated or non-existent laws.

That is commendable and should be encouraged. At the same time, the Administration needs to give even greater focus to ensuring that it implements programmes that will enhance the benefits already realised from the state of emergency, and replicate them in other vulnerable communities across the island in order to prevent the need for other states of emergencies.

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