Jamaica Observer - Guest editorial

Tuesday’s gangland drive-by shootings on Molynes Road and Red Hills Road in the Corporate Area provide harsh reminder — just in case Jamaicans needed it — that violent crime has gone nowhere.

Decades before the deadly Covid-19, crime was already destroying lives, crippling social relations, and undermining the economy at national, community, and individual levels in Jamaica.

Dishearteningly, two and a half years after Prime Minister Andrew Holness first introduced limited states of emergency in geographical zones, criminal gangs continue to flourish — despite anti-gang legislation.

The shootings in Ackee Walk, Molynes Road, and Common on Red Hills Road, which left four people, including social/political commentator and talk show host Mr Mark Wignall with gunshot wounds, underline the problem.

Says the Jamaica Observer report: “Gangsters from the two communities have long been allies, but they fell out last year over the proceeds of a lucrative extortion racket at the bus and taxi stand in the Chancery Street area. Since then, there have been a number of violent incidents in the area.”

This newspaper takes heart from the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the prime minister, Opposition leader, and other key stakeholders to develop consensus in addressing crime. Certainly, we have been at the forefront of those calling for politicians to put their egos aside and work together to confront this problem.

We have been told that priority areas of focus under the MOU include dismantling and eliminating criminal gangs; normalising and reintegrating troubled communities; preventing corruption, collusion and money laundering; and reforming and modernising the police and justice system.

This newspaper has long argued that community organisation and leadership training must be front and centre of the push against criminals.

It’s instructive that, in incidents such as Tuesday’s, residents invariably accuse the security forces of not doing enough to protect them. Sadly, far too many people refuse to accept that in order to get adequate protection they must tell police what they know about criminals and their activities.

In other words, residents must take sides. If people want to bring an end to crime they must choose to support the forces of law and order and turn their faces against criminals.

But for that to happen there must be strong community organisation and leadership.

It’s an established fact, as we have pointed out repeatedly in this space, that in communities with strong, activist leadership organisations, crime is usually much less of a factor. Indeed, as we understand it, the zones of special operations (ZOSOs) have had positive results along those lines.

But our impression is that the ZOSOs are too few and ‘scatter shot’ to have the desired effect. What’s needed is a long-term, comprehensive drive to build organisation and leadership in all communities, with politicians of all stripes, business people, church leaders, teachers, civil servants, farmers, factory workers, et al, getting a vibe to participate.

We believe the under-funded but very important Social Development Commission (SDC) has a huge role to play here.

With the parliamentary elections now out of the way, government and the political opposition must walk in step and lead.

Jamaica Observer

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