12-point crime plan - Security Minister lists raft of new measures
Thursday January 17, 2002
A TOUGH-TALKING Dr. Peter Phillips, last night set out an extensive 12-point plan to fight growing crime but warned Jamaicans that there was no quick fix to a problem that has driven fear into the hearts of the population.
Crucial to the National Security Minister's strategy are stiffer legal penalties for gun crimes and money laundering, better and more up-to-date equipment for the security forces, greater co-operation between the citizens and the police force and greater reliance on overseas crime-fighting expertise.
"The struggle will not be won overnight or in the immediate future, but it will be won because the consequences of failure are too catastrophic to contemplate," the Min-ister told an anxious and fearful nation in a television broadcast.
With 1,138 persons killed last year and at least 39 since the start of the year, the Govern-ment is faced with mounting calls for a solution to the crime situation.
To confront what he called the immediate problem of "urban terrorism" the Minister said the police and military will conduct joint operations, carry out more patrols, spot checks, roadblocks, curfews and cordons. This month the security forces will also receive a number of armoured vehicles and other crime-fighting equipment.
"Also... I have requested international assistance and advisers from friendly countries with experience in fighting urban terrorism," Dr. Phillips said.
He said there will be no area of the country that will be off limits to the security forces and warned that neither politicians, high-profile citizens nor community dons will be allowed to flout the law.
"In particular, no one should believe that they will be protected because they belong or purport to belong to any political party, including my own," he said.
Other aspects of the plan include tightening the control over the island's borders to prevent the influx of guns, drugs and ammunition. According to the Minister, a team left the island on Monday to review available x-ray technologies for use at the island's air and sea ports. Also, the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard will shortly receive three new high-speed marine patrol vessels to better equip them for patrolling the island's coastal waters.
To attack the illegal drug trade which the Minister identified as the root cause of much of the crime, the Money Laundering Act will be amended to broaden the mandatory requirement for reporting suspicious money transactions. It is estimated that some 100,000 tons of cocaine pass through Jamaica each year, making it one of the largest drug transshipment points in the region.
Legislation is also being drafted to provide for harsher penalties for gun offences, including life imprisonment for the importation and distribution of illegal firearms. The Fingerprint Act is to be amended to allow the police to take the fingerprints and photographs of persons who have been arrested on firearm and drug offences.
The Minister's plan which incorporates recommendations from the National Crime Committee report, puts special focus on modernisation of the police force. He said the short term plan of bringing in guns from off the streets will require more security personnel. To that end a major recruitment drive will be undertaken to fill some 3000 vacancies in the police force and the army.
As part of the modernisation programme of the police force, the constabulary will this April take over direct management of its own budget and two civilians appointed at the level of Deputy Commissioner.