Dr. Fraser- Point of View
September 3, 2004
Alarming trends with crime

It is now Wednesday morning and I am sitting before my computer, having come here with every intention of writing a different kind of article this week than the one I am now writing. But I have just been informed of a death at Lowmans Hill last night by gun shot and also of another shooting incident at Green Hill.{{more}} All of this is truly frightening. They come at a little more than a week since the much talked about shootings at Sion Hill.
Did someone say that crime was down? Something seems to be seriously amiss here for this is not the impression one gets, unless a different definition of crime is being used.
In recent weeks, in fact a little more than two months ago, we had the carnival murder and this was followed by the gunning down of a woman the day before she was scheduled to give evidence in Court. What is just as alarming as the crimes is that we are hearing little public dialogue about them. I hope we have not reached the stage where we have come to accept these as part of everyday life and are prepared to make accommodations to what we can easily dismiss as a reality, as part of life today. While we focus on these murders too, there are numerous reports of violent encounters leading to bodily harm and to hospitalization. Add to this the almost daily occurrences of theft, then it is obvious that we are moving on to a different level of tolerance and that the stakes are becoming higher.
What is of great concern is that persons have lost confidence in the ability of the police to come up with answers. It is obvious too, that criminals operate under the same feeling, that the police body is a toothless creature. While it is true as I have stated in an earlier article that we need to modernize our crime fighting machinery, I believe that there is more at stake. Clearly, there are problems within the police service and some members are simply going through the motion, waiting either for retirement or for the next pay cheque.
It is no secret that police personnel have been making statements to the effect that the Force has never been more divided, lacking motivation and will. The leadership has to take some of the blame for this sad state of affairs, because now more than ever, strong, forthright leadership is needed. I speak as an outsider, but the impression I am getting even viewing this from a distance, is that a high level of dissatisfaction exists even at the highest level.
With the state of criminality and general ill-discipline in the society, a strong law enforcement arm is critical. People will try to get away with what they think they can get away with. We do not expect that things are going to be set right over night, but we need to get signals that there is a strong commitment to fight crime and to deal with the high level of ill-discipline. Given the fact that a great proportion of crime is committed by youths we have also to be strong in our approach to discipline within our schools. Are we bending too much and too quickly in the other direction in our schools?
Like everything else politics has penetrated into the bowels of the police force. There is the general belief that promotions at all levels are governed by party political considerations. This is certainly not new, but it needs to be stopped for if any group in society needs to be above the fray it is the police and certainly dissatisfied police men and women will not perform to expectation. Why is there such a long time response to reports of crime? Victims of robberies complain about having to wait hours before the police can respond to their call. What is the problem? Is there a shortage of staff? Is it a lack of facilities? Has an attitude of nonchalance and of simply going through the motion taken hold of the Force?
Problems within the Police Force need to be addressed urgently before the situation gets completely out of hand. The authorities must put measures in place to get rid of the dissatisfaction and to build a professional body.
Success in fighting crime depends on the police’s relationship with civil society, with people in the communities. If people lose confidence in the police they are unlikely to want to cooperate. The series of crimes recently taking hold of the society represent a wake up call. True, it is not a matter for the police alone but they have a critical role to play. There are obviously too many guns around and in wrong hands.
What are the schools and churches doing about conflict resolution since in any kind of altercation today the tendency is to become violent? We can no longer speak to one another without getting violent. What is wrong? We have heard and seen what is happening to some of our neighbours. Are we prepared to go that way before we wake up and realise the extremity of the situation?
Furthermore, we have to begin to speak out and to discuss these issues publicly. Let those in authority know about our concerns. Sitting back is not an option.
If the view of some persons that some of the victims were wrongly identified is true then once we move on to the streets we are all possible targets.
Do not wait until it hits nearer home to act. Let our voices be heard. Will someone do a count of unsolved murders? This will certainly be of great interest.