Fighting crime in the region
May 28, 2004
IF THERE were doubts about increased criminal activity being a regional phenomenon, hearing of the problems of youth violence and an assortment of criminal activities, as expressed at the conference of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police held here over the last week, would have erased the questions.
If crime is to be reduced, if not eliminated, regional police services, security, education, probation and social development systems and anti-crime groups must collaborate to share problems and solutions. The central link amongst the criminal justice systems in the Caribbean is vital, moreover, with the coming of the Caribbean Court of Justice.
During the formal presentations and ad-hoc comments of senior officers, including commissioners, from Bermuda to Dominica, Jamaica, St Vincent, and St Kitts/Nevis, information was given on the types of hardcore criminal activity and the explosion of indiscipline and violence in schools in all of the territories by teenagers and young people in their early 20s. The patterns resemble each other across the Caribbean.
In Jamaica, the police are under minute scrutiny for the violent killings of people suspected of being involved in violent crime. The same is true for Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
Speaking on behalf of the second division Police Social and Welfare Association, Ag Insp Christopher Holder talked about the inadequacy of resources and the antiquated methods of investigation used by the Police Service. His counterpart from Jamaica had a similar spiel.
And you can add Guyana to T&T and Jamaica and doubtless others to the list of regional countries in which there is known involvement by police officers, in many instances senior officers, in aiding and abetting criminal activity.
At the structural level, there was also corroboration for the view expressed by Ag Insp Holder that the colonial-era bureaucratic nature of the Police Service, which vests crucial power in the hands of a distant Police Service Commission, leaves the Commissioner a bystander unable to manage, reward and, when necessary, discipline the officers under his command.
One police commissioner from the Eastern Caribbean said the structural problems went even deeper: there is too much political involvement in the operations of the police service, said the commissioner in an impassioned voice, to the cheering acknowledgement of a number of his colleagues.
The commissioners and their senior officers would have talked about and analyzed the problems common to all parts of the region, but is the mechanism in place to allow for greater and practical co-operation between Bermuda and Suriname and amongst the countries in-between to prosecute criminals?
Certainly, the criminal networks span cocaine operations in Colombia and Venezuela through the transportation links into the Caribbean Sea: the Eastern Caribbean, the Southern Caribbean and the Greater Antilles, with Haiti and the Dominican Republic, on the island of Hispaniola, being a major gateway for illicit drugs on their way to the lucrative consumer markets up North.
On this basis alone, the everyday contact amongst police commissioners should extend beyond the comfort of the former British colonies; too often, whether in trade or social links, that frame seems to limit our ambitions.
The ACCP can expand its efforts on the existing infrastructure for co-operation in the hemispheric security council and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, the latter specializing in anti-money laundering initiatives and seeking to prevent the region from being used by terrorists to relay their funds to carry out mayhem.
The ACCP cannot become a talk shop for regional initiatives that are imperilled in the absence of day-to-day action. (Trinidad Guardian)