Prime Minister, Andrew Holness (left) greets participant in the Project STAR (Social Transformation and Renewal) initiative, Akeem Tate during a tour of Parade Gardens in downtown Kingston on Friday, September 15. Holness is accompanied by Project STAR Co-Chair and sponsor Keith Duncan. (Photo: JIS)
KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Government will continue investing in and supporting crime prevention and social intervention strategies that focus on reducing violence as a feature of the society, Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, has said.
“The next phase of the Government’s crime-fighting strategy is to treat with the centre of the problem… and the centre of the problem is the person. So we have to, now, invest heavily in our social support, our psychological and emotional support. We have to invest heavily in our crime prevention, in our youth involvement, community involvement,” he said.
‘You would have started to see the Government making those kinds of investments in some of the interventions that we have been putting significant resources in for our young people, for psychological, emotional and social support. But we are going to take that a step further,” he added.
The prime minister was speaking during a tour of Parade Gardens in downtown Kingston on Friday where the Project STAR (Social Transformation and Renewal) initiative is being implemented.
Holness said the work of the National Violence Prevention Commission forms a critical component of the ongoing efforts.
He advised earlier this year that the commission, chaired by Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughn, is drafting a report detailing recommendations for legislative changes and institutional building, which should be ready by year end.
“It is a whole of society effort where persons who are skilled in this area, persons who are academics and who understand this area have been working in a collaborative effort to look at all the interventions that the Government already would have sponsored or would have effected,” Holness emphasised.
This, he added, is “to bring them together in a cohesive whole of Government approach to treat with the other element of the challenge and that is the violence, the social and socioemotional interactions, those areas which we have not made a budgetary effort to treat with.”
Holness said the Government’s crime fighting strategy has invested heavily in boosting the security forces’ apparatus.
“So the Government’s crime fighting strategy has been very tactile… its focused heavily on investing in the police force and the military. It has invested heavily in technology and equipment and it has invested heavily in the dynamic response of the security forces to ensure that we control spaces, that we control actors and that we are able to interdict criminals and prosecute. That is half of the problem,” he pointed out.
He emphasised the importance of the nation understanding that while hard-policing strategies and policies are pursued, “there is the side that treats with the socio-emotional regulation of the people in the community.”
This, he explained, is “to acknowledge that there are challenges, acknowledge that there are ways in treating them and take on those opportunities when they present themselves and to take ownership of the community and become the wardens of their own peace.”
He commended the conceptualisers of Project STAR and all the stakeholder partners who have been playing a critical role in the initiative.
“It is private sector-led, it is Government-supported. It is not intended to be forever… the private sector can’t carry out social projects forever. But their intervention is intended to fill gaps where they exist, to give immediate relief and to find ways to integrate them into the Government’s programme,” the prime minister said.
Against this background, Holness said “Project STAR is a good start and a good example”, and encouraged “other members of the private sector who are not yet on board, to come on board.”