The Business Community meets the new Minister of National Security
Thursday, August 2 2012
A wide cross-section of the business community had the opportunity to meet with new Minister of National Security Austin Jack Warner at the Chamber.Typically at no loss for words, the Honourable Minister was frank in terms of his map for dealing with crime and his expectations.
Mr Warner hit the proverbial nail on the head when he stated that “Crime is homicide and homicide is crime”, and unless the incidence of homicide is significantly reduced, no statistics showing a decrease in serious reported crime will remove the perception that crime is on the increase.
The Chamber was pleased to note that Mr Warner is already engaged in fulfilling expectations as “a man of action” and has started meetings with several key personnel and agencies as he charts his way forward.
He repeatedly emphasised however, that there was no magic wand and certainly no “Warner plan” but a collective effort was needed by all stakeholders, including the business community, if crime was to be brought under control. He rightly identified that the system to deal with crime, from the perspective of both security and justice needed overhaul in certain critical areas. Therefore, he had been seeking meetings with past Ministers of National Security, other relevant Ministers of Government, key stakeholders in the police srvice, the Chief Justice and the Attorney General to hear their views on possible solutions.
The security agency with the biggest direct impact on crime is without doubt the Police Service, and it is to this that Mr. Warner devoted much of his attention. He maintained that police stations must be kept open on a 24/7 basis as this gives the community a sense of security. Having said that however, he accepts that police officers should return to beat patrol on foot and bicycles. To help with manpower issues, he plans to pursue initiatives in the court system to free up police officers and to also increase the number of SRPs to 5000 with training being done on our university campuses during slow periods.
Happily, the minister and the Chamber seem to be on the same page in support for an amnesty for guns, a gun court and the use of video conferencing to give in-camera evidence, which would cut down on the annual $32 million transport bill to move prisoners from the remand yard to court and back.
A lot more was discussed by the minister, but space does not permit the Chamber to address all. Crime cannot be addressed overnight, and according to Mr Warner, “Naming an initiative does not equate with implementation.” However, of the plans and initiatives outlined by Mr Warner must all necessarily be subjected to scrutiny. Clear targets must be used and the form of these measurements must also be clarified to be able to determine their success. In this light, we are most happy for the minister’s commitment to accountability, including himself in that examination. Give him six months he said, and so we will.
The Chamber, like the minister, recognises that there are “hard” and “soft” sides to addressing crime, and we will certainly be speaking more on these in the coming weeks.