Patria-Kaye Aarons | Goat Islands, anyone?
It's 2018. Hip, hip, hooray! No sooner did the pepper lights come down and the fanfare of the fireworks diminish did real life set in.
We closed out last week with news out of the JCF that Jamaicans were killing each other at a rate of six a day. A fine start on the heels of the country's third most murderous year. If we keep this up, we'll have a winner. Year 2018 could see 2,000 people being massacred right here in paradise.
This cannot be real life. It feels like the world's first heroless play - a sick, twisted plot where the villain keeps on winning. For almost a week during Christmas, many men and women of the police force stayed off the job in protest against the six per cent wage increase offer from the Government. They called in sick with a mystery illness brought on by being underpaid, overworked and under-resourced. Cough, cough.
To make matters worse, their leader, the police commissioner, indicated on Nationwide FM his intention to retire this year - after only being on the job for nine months. It took half a year for him to be named as a replacement for Dr Carl Williams (who himself only served two years). Lord knows how long it will take the minister of national security to scout for the next victim to pass the superhero cape to.
Wi corner more than dark.
I don't know that the powers that be actually know how to solve Jamaica's perennial problem. During the police sickout (code-named Silent Night), crime for the period actually declined, and that spoke very loudly. That result was unfortunate for the police who wanted their absence to be significantly felt. They wanted to prove that their absence would have a negative effect, making citizens feel unsafe and criminals invincible.
LITTLE INFLUENCE ON CRIME
I can't celebrate that temporary decline in crime in the absence of the forces in full force because the result easily suggests that police have little influence in stopping crime before it happens. Many really do just observe and report after the fact. Little prevention; little solving, which does us little good.
In spite of more guns being seized by the police than ever before, I can't applaud. I don't know if that number is a small drop in a big bucket; and I'm convinced neither do the police. If one detected shipment can contain more 100 guns, how many barrels have slipped through the cracks undetected?
I can't celebrate the zones of special operations (ZOSOs). Four months after implementation, in two communities, the declared objective has not been met. We were told gangs would be dismantled.
By now, as proof of their effectiveness, Jamaica should be seeing gangsters, droves of gangsters, arrested, tried and well on their way to conviction. That would be a visible result in which Jamaica would feel confident. The fact that crime in these communities has been reduced to near zero is of little comfort. Soldiers and police can't stay there forever. And violent crimes still happen in communities adjacent to the ZOSOs.
Clearly we need a new plan if Jamaica's story is going to have a happy ending.
But who will devise this plan? The minister of national security, who many speculate will soon be reshuffled to another portfolio? The fast-fleeing police commissioner? Scared citizens afraid of telling what they know to the wrong person? Who?
I don't have the answer. So my personal objective for 2018 is to find a hiding place.
Top of the list for me is moving to the Goat Islands. It's been declared a wildlife sanctuary by the UDC and I'm hoping they advertise an iguana-feeding job. I'll gladly take it if it comes with room and board. I'd rather conquer my fear of lizards than take my chances with a gunman.
- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner.