By Raffique Shah
November 21, 2022
Acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob has been in the Service for too many years, and served at the executive level for far too long to fall for the trick of announcing yet another anti-crime initiative in a bid to halt the near hysteria emanating from the population over the five-to-ten murders a day. He is experienced enough to know that nothing short of a significant drop in the murder rate will ease the burden of his minister breathing down his neck, the opposition politicians lampooning him and deep frustration among his subordinate officers making his life very uncomfortable.
Putting eighty or three hundred new vehicles on the road, adding sixty or six hundred new officers and outlining strategies, tried and tested in the past won’t cut it in this season of daily and nightly gunfire, triggered mainly by young criminals who have absolutely no regard for life or limb among themselves, far-less the populace. The killing fields that he inherited require more and pure action, meaning either criminals are arrested and charged or their corpses litter their stomping grounds like the carcasses of stray dogs.
Nothing less will satiate the public’s appetite for murders-by-the-numbers, details of which they can regurgitate as readily as they do Play Whe ‘marks’, even if their education included only addition and subtraction, tutored as they were by equally daft talk show hosts, many of whom are mentally challenged; they can recognize only symbols, not statistics, which qualifies them for the jobs they do, peddle ‘tah-tah’ to consumers who revel in it.
Out of curiosity, how many people who complain about overwhelming crime have ever come face-to-face with guns aimed at them, or less likely, fired? I suspect the number will be below five percent. In fact, outside of the so-called ‘hot spots’, few people will have ever heard gunfire. My wife and I were victims of a ‘home invasion’ back in 2002- at least that’s what they call it now. Back then, we would say, we were robbed by two bungling, gun-toting bandits. They relieved us of a few items, jewellery and a small sum of money. They left after I managed to talk them out of their misadventure. During that episode, one bandit held my wife and pointed the gun at her ear throughout the ordeal which lasted about fifteen minutes.
A few years earlier, a lone gunman robbed a grocery at the top of my street. Fleeing the scene with whatever cash he took, he ran towards where I stood in my yard, preparing to go for an afternoon run. The grocer drove his car towards the fleeing bandit who took a shaky aim in our general direction. I thought: this fool will surely damage my car. He missed everything. He escaped only because neither the grocer nor I had a firearm.
Now murders in that period were far fewer than they are today and citizens have every right to be very disturbed. If crime of the magnitude we face must be significantly impacted, Commissioner Jacob knows he must go back to basics: information, information, information. Otherwise called intelligence in anti-crime or military operations. The gathering of credible and evidence-backed information is fundamental to any army or police unit involved in operations where there are no clear lines between ‘enemy’ and ‘friendly’ forces.
Without such intelligence the police are shooting in the dark, hence the reason why there are such outcries when they target the wrong persons. Gone are the days when highly skilled police officers were trained to infiltrate gangs and criminal empires, working undercover, appearing much like the perpetrators of crime, even joining missions with them all in the name of enforcing the law and maintaining order.
While they help, electronic devices such as CCTV and other surveillance equipment are useless when it really matters. The criminals use them for target practice or knowing where they are located they arrange for other shows to be picked up by the devices as they saunter off to their real targets. That is the reality out there, Commissioner. You and I and thousands others know that.
We also know that on every block in every corner of this country, the communities know precisely who the criminals are, who committed what crimes, where weapons are hidden, who the dealers that sell guns are etc. The missing links in this fight to win back our country from elements bent on making us look like hell on earth are intelligence, and very importantly confidence in the police service and judicial system. Sadly, we have failed in all three and we have known this for many years but we have not acted on them.
Some radical thoughts are going through my mind which I have neither the space nor time to address today. A teaser: won’t martial law circumvent the need to adhere to tedious judicial strictures? I am prepared to discuss this another time-but soon.