Sustained enforcement needed to address crime and violence
The failed efforts by successive parties, that is Government, security, and private sector administrations, to satisfactorily address crime and violence in Jamaica over the years is not for a lack of operational initiatives or recommendations from scholarly researchers and field experts. Probably, it's from a lack of commitment, conviction and sustained enforcement efforts on the ground to effectively execute the rule of law by the respective agencies. A sustained effort of executing the law is needed by all parties, at all times, to take the gains from the crimes being committed by those perpetrators through apprehension, arrest, conviction, and punishment through the court of law.
Let's examine the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) initiative, more specifically the Emancipation Park Declaration in 2005. The PSOJ demonstrated its disgust at what they termed was the then Government's failure and uninspired efforts to address crime and violence. The rampant and high levels of crime and violence, they said, and the deleterious effect it was having on the private sector and the country in general, had caused the organisation to call for the closing of all major businesses from 1:00 pm on May 25. People then gathered at Emancipation Park and all over the country for a prayer vigil in an effort to send a strong message to the Government that they were dissatisfied with the levels of crime and violence in the country and their failed efforts to satisfactorily address the issues. From this initiative, the organisation crafted several well-intended recommendations to the Government. Since then, what are the sustained efforts from this organisation to ensure follow-up actions and deliverables from governments?
Let's look at accountability in the security forces. How aggressive are they in enforcing law and order when they are out there? I have no doubt that they are conducting meaningful investigations, patrolling, doing covert intelligence operations, and producing unquestionable evidence to convict perpetrators. However, they must also ensure that vehicles/motorists going through special operational points are checked. If not, then their efforts would be seen as pointless and amounting to parading. Wherever the security forces are on operation it must be to some effect. All law-abiding citizens must understand and appreciate this and give their support in an effort to play their part in the process of sustained enforcement.
Why shouldn't all police personnel be involved in a sustained traffic enforcement initiative by carrying a traffic ticket booklet and issue tickets if we are serious about enforcing a zero tolerance on traffic offences? Certainly, police personnel must have seen several road violations every day for which they could have issued tickets. In the United States, for example, plainclothes police patrolling in unmarked vehicles turn on internal flashing lights and pull over the motorist who they observe committing a traffic violation. Probably in Jamaica we only use marked vehicles and police in uniform to punish road traffic violations.
Crime provides some measure of pleasure, thus to deter crime one must administer some pain (Cesare Beccaria, 1738-1794). The pain which Cesare refers to here is the conviction, punishment, and loss of that gain from the crime committed. The classical criminologist points out that the decisions to violate the law are weighed against possible punishments. To deter crime, the pain of punishment must outweigh the benefit of illegal gain. Punishment must be just severe enough to overcome the gain from a crime. The punishment that is too severe is unjust, and punishment that is not severe enough will not deter crime and lawlessness. However, for all this to happen there must be the apprehension of the culprit(s). This is why there must be sustained efforts by all parties to ensure this punishment.
Paradoxically, sociologist Emile Durkheim believed that crime is a normal part of all societies. “Crime is present… in all societies of all types,” (Durkheim, E 1895 p 65), and it is a societal necessity as it allows the members of a society, through chastising those who go against the law, to reaffirm their social values and, in doing so, develop the t conscience and strengthen social solidarity. He further stated that crime is needed for society to evolve and maintain itself, and that there is no society that does not have crime. In this case, we, therefore, have to accept that crime is a constant in the society which will need the collective efforts of all parties to address. This can better be done by having sustained efforts of enforcement on the ground to ensure apprehension, conviction, and punishment to take away the gain from the crime.
The Reverend Devon Dick argued that the former chief of defence staff, Major General Stewart Saunders, admitted that the Jamaica Constabulary Force was unable to police certain areas and, therefore, the Jamaica Defence Force, with the requisite legislative powers for a specified period, was willing and able to police these areas. In that clear statement, he believed that the major general had displayed to Jamaica what the problem is and what the solution could be. It is obvious, he pointed out, that there are hard-nosed criminals — well-equipped, well-funded and well-trained — who are ruthless and fearless, and that a different type of strategy, apart from community policing, is needed. This, I believe is a sustained effort of enforcement. Force is just and legitimate and, as was in biblical times, Moses killing the Egyptian was not frowned upon by God. Therefore, Saunders is on holy ground to want to take on those who are holding the communities hostage, the reverend remarked.
Remarkably, with the constant levels of crime and violence over the years, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) probably was correct when he deduced that people are naturally selfish and wicked and, therefore, cannot be trusted, thereby implying that the primitive or “natural” state of humanity was violent and brutal. Consequently, a strong Government is a necessary good to control them and keep the peace.
The Dalai Lama, however, doesn't share Hobbes' views. He thinks that human nature is basically good: Though we have jealousy and hatred, the dominant characteristics seem to be compassion, affection and kindness, he assured.
Christopher Bryan has read for master's degrees in government and national security and strategic studies. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.