Editorial

Crime is indeed a national emergency

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

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The arrival of a new year has always been greeted with some amount of optimism that there will be general improvement in our lives.

As was reported in yesterday's edition of this newspaper, some people of religious persuasion decided on New Year's Eve that they should strengthen their faith in the Almighty Creator by getting baptised — a sort of cleansing of the soul with the hope of a fresh start that will guide them to observe the principles of moral truth and virtue.

That is a commendable decision and one which we hope will engender support from their families, church communities and others who are near and dear to them.

What probably makes the New Year interesting though, is the fact that, aside from the perennial problems dogging this country, we really are uncertain about what will happen in the days ahead.

Easily, the problem that has given us most cause for concern is crime. To say that it is an issue that needs urgent attention is an understatement.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in his New Year's message, has described the problem as a national emergency. We agree. No well-thinking Jamaican can feel comfortable with the fact that last year there were more than 1,600 murders reported in this country — a country that is not at war.

While we accept that factors such as poverty, broken homes, and a general disregard for law and order are contributing to the island's crime rate, we maintain that the people who purchase and distribute weapons are major facilitators of crime and violence.

As we have repeatedly pointed out in this space, the guns and ammunition that are being illegally imported into this country are not inexpensive. Therefore, the individuals responsible for their arrival here are people of substantial means.

The authorities, therefore, need to give greater focus to gathering credible evidence against these people, apprehending them, and placing them before the courts.

Hopefully, the prime minister's stated commitment to that strategy is more than just tough talk. For as he correctly said in his New Year's message: “The importation of weapons cannot be viewed narrowly within the prism of street crimes and gang-on-gang warfare; this is a direct threat to the national security of the State.”

Against that background, Mr Holness has vowed that “illegal weapons and the organised criminal network around their procurement, importation and distribution... will get national attention in 2018 which will include amendments to the Firearms Act, amendments to the Anti-gang Legislation and amendments to the Bail Act”.

He has also promised to continue giving priority to the budget allocated to security in order to strengthen the country's crime-fighting capabilities. At the same time, Mr Holness acknowledged that “institutional reform is necessary to ensure that government spending is effectively used and gets results”.

We share that view, and will pay keen attention to how this process is managed, because that will inform our view as to whether the Government is serious about meeting its commitment to “make Jamaica safe and secure”.

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