Horace Chang, Minister of National Security, has, it seems, lost faith in the Jamaican state and its various agencies ability to stem the violence which is now at record heights.
That is, he seems to have lost faith in all except the security forces which, he maintains, have been doubly wronged by society with their lack of appreciation and the state by their failure to invest in them at an adequate level. As a result of this shift in faith, he has boldly stated that social intervention is a failed endeavour, slashed funding to bodies such as the PMI and has instead channelled the funds towards the security forces to better equip and provide workspace.
The belief that social intervention is a failure when compared to boots on the ground is not unique to the Minister. It is a belief held by many, and most find the act of working with criminals a jarring thought and would prefer them to just disappear. While the feeling in the broader public is understandable, coming from the Minister tasked with our security it is scary and continues a trend which this administration has followed and with which the Opposition seemingly has no issue or alternative.
Let us deal with the Minister’s gripes point by point. His first is the tired line that the nation does not appreciate the JCF and its role and this has resulted in our crime problem. Even if we don’t use the Marxist analysis of what a police force is for, is he advising us (as my friend suggested) that we should go and buy a beer for the squaddie who has just done an illegal traffic search on you? Is he saying we should be sending birthday cards to the constables who work hand in glove with the criminals? Or is it that he wants us to hug random officers on the street even after going to the station the previous night and being turned away as they are all sleeping (Port Royal)?
Again, staying away from radical thinking, the police have failed to get the public on board and not the other way around when it comes to treatment and crime-fighting. On top of being crass and incompetent many are corrupt themselves. Why would any right-thinking person pay them respect or assist them in their job? How does better interaction from the citizenry help when the police can’t bring enough evidence to hold a criminal? How does a proposed respectful interaction stop them from working with the dons? How would it, in short, help us right now in our fight against crime?
The Minister is mad as a shad to suggest that it is the people’s under-appreciation of the JCF which has led to either their incompetence or the crime problem and he is clearly putting the cart before the horse. Some have placed it down to politicking at its basest as we approach an election, but I maintain that it is for a higher purpose which we are not privy to — a police state.
This then brings us to dismantling through de-funding of the PMI and other NGOs and QUANGOS which work on social intervention. Setting aside the fact that hard data show that social intervention drastically cuts crime of all types (but especially violent crime), what does the Minister suggest as an alternative or even complement to the ZOSO and SOE which is quickly blanketing the entire island? Is the solution in his mind to go back to the 70s-90s when the police and army were licensed to shoot first and never ask questions (ACID etc)? or is the solution more draconian, something which we currently see used in Israel and the police forces in the US where the police become a quasi-military and lay siege to the targeted community?
These are serious questions. Why is the security minister so intent on defunding what is an essential component of his party’s crime plan? The ZOSO, lest we forget, entails 3 phases — clear, hold, and build — and it is these last two phases, primarily the last, which calls almost solely for social intervention and has no call for brigades and battalions on the ground. So why defund one and increase funding for the other? At best robbing Peter to pay Paul and at worst deliberately setting us up for failure.
His pronouncement that the Government will instead be focusing on the schools (almost by themselves) again leaves one wondering if he is serious or if he wants the bloodshed to continue. Teachers can only work with what is provided to them. If they have a psychopath, they may end up with a bright psychopath but a psychopath nonetheless as we see with Dudus who, while never being violent in school, went on to take over his father’s multi-national criminal empire.
The solution to this is the exact opposite of what got us here, and what has got us here is exactly what we are doing now. Jobs with little hope and less pay; unaffordable housing and a complete lack of access to the scarce state benefits. These, along with a police force which has historically and continues to act like a militia guarding the haves against the have nots, has led to the situation we are in now. A failure on the part of the state to intervene in people’s lives at the early stages of hard times (sickness, unemployment, domestic dispute) has led to the present situation and the cutting of funds to agencies which rectify these situations is counterproductive.
We have seen the benefits of social intervention when funded and maintained in areas such as Mountain View, Rockfort, August Town, Tel Aviv and scores of other communities. Conversely, we have also seen these communities collapse into pandemonium and warfare whenever these agencies are not afforded the money and resources. Many ministry papers, doctoral theses and books have been written outlining how social intervention works in Jamaica and how, if we hope to tackle crime, we need to ramp up the investment and organisation of these agencies and radically transform our security services and how they operate (in terms of public decorum and investigating). For the Minister to not only refute these findings but to also do the exact opposite only leads to the conclusion that there is no love for the average citizen who bears the brunt of interactions with the security forces.
The Minister and his Government have no intention of fixing the problems mentioned and are content to create the skeleton of a future police state. The Opposition, it seems, have no alternative to these actions and have gone no further than mildly worded press releases, either because they are really that incompetent and clueless or because they have no real problem with the actions of the Government and security forces. True, they have mentioned the visit to Israel of our security Czar, and true, they have continually voiced opposition to the extensions of the SOEs and ZOSOs, but they have done no follow-up on the matter of the visit (left to 18 Degrees North), and they have still voted in favour of all extensions of special operations since the end of 2018.
The only conclusion which I and others who are not privy to the grand crime plan can come to is that the Government and Opposition want a police state. That may not be the case. It may simply be that the Government really is clueless and unable to rectify the issues facing the nation as it relates to crime and its societal causes, a comforting thought except they seem to know the answers (or at least seem to be reading from the correct book) the second they are in opposition.
To avoid speculation, rumour and fearmongering, the Government and Opposition must have a serious dialogue on creating a crime plan. It must include all stakeholders and in the end, should include a large sum dedicated strictly to social intervention. We must say no to the further secularization of the nation and the abandoning of tried and tested methods of crime reduction. If not, we will one day soon wake up to country which will be radically different.