“Jamaica is awash with guns,” says Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Clifford Blake, and stronger sentences are needed to fight the demand for and use of the weapon in committing various crimes.DCP Blake says that he fully supports a suggestion made a few years ago by former Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, who proposed that there should be a mandatory minimum sentence for gun offences, and that he supports the idea.
“I remember him saying that there should be a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years, and I would support it,” DCP Blake told a private/public sector partnership forum on crime in New Kingston, on Thursday.
“Every young man in some communities wants to have a gun, and when a shipment arrives from Haiti, there are more buyers actually waiting for them,” he told the forum hosted by private security firm, Guardsman Group, at the Knutsford Court Hotel.
He said that unless the country can find ways to reduce the demand for guns in some communities, there are going to be serious problems, because there are too many willing users.
“We have too many guns, so we will have to find a way to cut the supply and cut the appetite for them,” he said.
Blake listed a number of other failings affecting the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in fighting crime, including: lack of technology; threat from at-risk youths; JCF’s high attrition rate; lack of professionalism; the need to stomp out corruption; the prevalence of informal residential settlements; and general public disorder.
DCP Blake was among a number of guest speakers, including Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Minister of National Security Robert Montague, as well as Opposition spokesman on Tourism Dr Wykeham McNeill, at the meeting.
He said that, based on the success of the JCF in using fingerprint technology to produce police reports within a day, it is obvious that an increasing use of modern technology was necessary to deal with all forms of crimes, including cybercrime.
He said that he was concerned at what has been happening in the schools, and the fact that there is a “line of production” producing criminals faster than the police and the courts can handle them.
He said that the country needed to find out at what stage, it is necessary to start diverting these youths from a life of crime.
“Because, with even the most effective police force in the world, if it continues to pour out those youngsters, in another nine to 10 years, with guns, they will just overwhelm the system,” he warned.
DCP Blake was also concerned that the JCF continues to have a high attrition rate, noting that it has been losing in excess of 500 members per year, including some of its best trained officers, who are being recruited by other countries in the region, in search of better salaries.
“This is a challenge which we continually face,” he told the forum.
Turning to the issue of public disorder, DCP Blake noted that one motorist had been found with more than 1,400 unpaid traffic tickets, collected over the past 10 years, but was still able to remain on the road, as any other driver.
“There are numerous drivers with over 1,000 unpaid traffic tickets, who just accept them from the police and walk away without intention to pay the fine. They know they don’t have to pay, and nothing will happen… These are some of the challenges that we are actually facing,” he said.
In his speech to the forum, Prime Minister Holness raised the need for partnership between all levels of the security system, including private security guards.
He said that the institutions of governance across the State, including Government, civil society and the private sector, must work together to contribute to economic growth and the creation of a secure society through collaboration and cooperation.
“In addition to their role in job creation for over 23,000 Jamaicans, the private security industry is an essential component of the national security framework providing value; including protection of access control points, employees, clients, communities, homes, and corporate assets; and indeed as protectors of national industries,” he stated.