KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday January 2, 2018 – The Jamaica government intends to intensify its crime fight and pass legislation to weed out corrupt cops as a priority this year.
On the heels of a year in which more than 1,500 people were murdered, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in his New Year’s message yesterday that given the current crime situation, it is without question that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) needs critical institutional reform to be able to effectively lead the fight against crime.
“This year the Government intends to table new legislation to define a transformed police service. This new legislation will replace the current JCF Act and focus, among other things, on preserving the integrity of the men and women who serve, to ensure that corruption within in the ranks of the police services does not compromise the ability of the force to fight crime,” he said.
“We will also pass the MOCA [Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency] Act and table the National Security Act which will create a more coordinated framework for all agencies operating within the national security space.”
Holness also said 2018 must be the year when the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs) are scaled up “to reclaim communities that have been captured by criminals”. Under ZOSOs – the first of which was declared in Mount Salem and its environs in the parish of St James, in September last year – police are given special power to stop, search and detain citizens without a warrant in designated areas.
In his address, the Prime Minister also identified the illegal importation of firearms as a national emergency and a threat to Jamaica’s security.
He said the discovery late last year of more than 100 illegal guns destined for the island is another indication of the depth and extent of the problem.
“The importation of weapons cannot be viewed narrowly within the prism of street crimes and gang on gang warfare; this is a direct threat to the national security of the state and the facilitators and traffickers will be treated as such,” Holness assured.
“Illegal weapons and the organized criminal network around their procurement, importation and distribution are national emergencies and will get national attention in 2018 which will include amendments to the Firearms Act, amendments to the Anti-gang Legislation and amendments to the Bail Act.”
Noting that last year his administration allocated an additional J$2.4 billion (US$19.3 million) in the national budget to support the operations of the security forces and strengthen crime fighting capabilities, Holness said his government would continue to make security spending a priority. But he stressed that institutional reform is necessary to ensure that government spending is effectively used and gets results.