Counter-at­tack

Army ramp­ing up re­cruit­ment to help crush western crime

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Livern Bar­rett Se­nior Gleaner Writer

THE NEW head of the Ja­maica De­fence Force (JDF), Ma­jor Gen­eral Rocky Meade, plans to de­ploy a bat­tal­ion of sol­diers – nor­mally be­tween 500 and 600 – to the crime-plagued western sec­tion of the is­land but made it clear that the army would have to re­cruit to sup­port the de­ploy­ment.

This dis­clo­sure, in an in­ter­view with The Gleaner im­me­di­ately af­ter he as­sumed com­mand of the mil­i­tary, seem­ingly high­lights Meade’s own sharp fo­cus on Ja­maica’s crime prob­lem, which is in keep­ing with what the Hol­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion says is one of its key strate­gies for driv­ing eco­nomic growth.

Meade took over from Ma­jor Gen­eral Antony An­der­son, who has been ap­pointed as Ja­maica’s first na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser.

Meade didn’t give a time­frame for the de­ploy­ment but sug­gested that a full bat­tal­ion could be built up over two years.

“We will be re­cruit­ing con­tin­u­ously, maybe 250 per year over the next year or two,” he told The Gleaner af­ter he was of­fi­cially ap­pointed by Gov­er­nor Gen­eral Sir Pa­trick Allen dur­ing a cer­e­mony at King’s House in St An­drew.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force’s (JCF) lat­est Pe­ri­odic Se­ri­ous and Vi­o­lent Crime

Re­view, 390 mur­ders have been recorded in Trelawny, St James, Hanover, and West­more­land – Ja­maica’s four west­ern­most parishes, which are also crit­i­cal to the is­land’s tourism in­dus­try – since the start of the year.

The data show, too, that St James alone recorded 232 mur­ders since Jan­uary 1, the most in the his­tory of the parish over a one-year pe­riod. It also marked the sec­ond straight year that the mur­der count in St James has sur­passed 200.

Meade ac­knowl­edged that the high mur­der rate was what in­flu­enced his de­ci­sion to de­ploy a full bat­tal­ion out west.

“The mur­der fig­ures in the west are more than dou­ble what they nor­mally are, ap­par­ently re­lated to the lot­tery ac­tiv­i­ties,” he noted.

With mur­ders over 1,000 an­nu­ally and a homi­cide rate of up­wards of 40 per 100,000, Ja­maica is in the top tier of mur­der­ous coun­tries, a fact that an­a­lysts and in­ter­na­tional agen­cies say con­strains eco­nomic growth.

AD­DI­TIONAL ECO­NOMIC GROWTH

In fact, the World Bank has ar­gued that if Ja­maica could bring its homi­cide rate close to that of its re­gional com­peti­tor, Costa Rica (around 10 per 100,000), it would re­lease up to seven per cent in ad­di­tional an­nual eco­nomic growth. Over the last 40 years, the is­land’s econ­omy has grown at an an­nual av­er­age of one per cent.

Meade said that the army was not seek­ing to take over the role of the po­lice. In­stead, its planned in­creased pres­ence in western Ja­maica would form part of its en­hanced sup­port to the po­lice.

Meade said that for his ten­ure, he wants to in­crease the num­ber of men and women serv­ing in the JDF. There are ap­prox­i­mately 4,000 mem­bers serv­ing in the Ja­maican mil­i­tary.

He said in­creas­ing the mem­ber­ship of the army would also pro­vide some respite for over­worked sol­diers.

OVERBURDEN SOL­DIERS

“We have a very mod­est force and the sol­diers work around the clock. They have to be on and off ev­ery eight hours in or­der for us to keep a con­stant pres­ence out there,” Meade said.

“One of the things I want to do is in­crease the num­bers (in the JDF) so that they can get enough rest, spend time with their fam­i­lies, while we con­tinue to have a con­stant pres­ence sup­port­ing the po­lice,” he added.

In the mean­time, Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Dr Carl Wil­liams wel­comed Meade’s ap­point­ment, say­ing it marked the con­tin­u­a­tion of the very good re­la­tion­ship that ex­ists be­tween the po­lice and the mil­i­tary.

“He was al­ways there work­ing with us to en­sure that these po­lice-mil­i­tary joint pa­trols are very, very ef­fec­tive. I think with the chal­lenges that we face, the sup­port of the mil­i­tary is in­dis­pen­si­ble to the ef­fec­tive con­trol of crime by the se­cu­rity forces,” Wil­liams said.

RI­CARDO MAKYN/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness (left), con­grat­u­lates Ma­jor Gen­eral Rocky Meade, chief of de­fence staff, on his new ap­point­ment dur­ing yes­ter­day’s swear­ing-in at King’s House in St An­drew.

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