Government struggling to find workable crime strategies

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A pistol and bullets. Courtesy of Derwin Edwards.

Between 5 and 15 November 2022, a gun amnesty provided the opportunity for people in possession of illegal or unregistered firearms to turn in their guns without facing the penalty of being charged. “Over 90 weapons were turned in, with over 2,500 rounds of ammunition…this surprised me I didn’t expect so many,” said Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), 79th Annual Conference on Sunday.

Holness shared on Tuesday, at the sitting of the House of Representatives, that the exact number of guns turned in were 101 firearms and 3,000 ammunition. Holness says there are thousands of guns out there and therefore the Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction, and Regulation) Act called the new Firearms Act was passed. This Act came about due to the continued surge in crime and violence that involve illegal guns. Criminals will now face lengthier sentences and heavier penalties for the possession of prohibited weapons, stockpiling weapons and ammunition, and manufacturing or trafficking prohibited weapons.

In preparation for lengthier sentences, the government also plans to build a new prison. “I have given instructions that a high-security facility with a communication dead spot, be built”, said Holness at the Sunday conference. “We will put them in a facility where they cannot influence crime and murders” he added.

Over the years, criminals have been using electronic devices from inside their prison cells to order murder attacks.  Member of the Senate and former Minister of National Security Matthew Samuda said, “They give orders from inside correctional institutions, perpetuating contract killings and gang feuds”. The Corrections (Amendment) Act, 2021 was passed last year to control articles going into prison cells.

The communication dead spot means that any electronic device in the facility will be unable to pick up a signal to make a call, send a text, or connect to the Wi-Fi. The media has seen Adidja ‘Vybz Kartel’ Palmer, who has been in jail for 11 years on criminal charges, produce music and make calls to the extent that he recently became engaged.

In another effort to curb Jamaica’s climbing crime rate, the Prime Minister will now seek the assistance of the US Authorities. Holness expressed that criminal elements who have migrated to the US are still contributing to the crime rate of the country. “I think it’s a shame that someone who got the opportunity to migrate would use that opportunity to seek to make their community a living hell for people they have left behind”, says Holness.

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