Police work

2009-04-06 00:00

Crime, much of it marked by extraordinarily vicious rapaciousness, continues to be a dominant public concern. With the government apparently keen to keep the latest statistics under wraps until after the elections, precious little seems to be happening to check the scourge. On the contrary, the criminal justice chain from detection through prosecution to conviction and ultimately the rehabilitation of offenders seems weak in every link. Many crimes are not reported at all. Many others are never solved. The proportion of successful convictions is distressingly low.

This is something that can only encourage the potential criminal. The hijackers who targeted Lucky Dube’s car in October 2007 almost certainly imagined that they would get away with it — hijacking is now so common that it barely rates a mention in the press. They may reckon themselves unfortunate that things went wrong, and even more unfortunate that the man they killed turned out to be a high-profile reggae singer. They surely never anticipated that they would end up facing long prison sentences, loathed and vilified by the whole country.

So too, the men who bludgeoned young Raelin Devnarain to death must have thought that if they could just silence the child and his mother they would be able to walk safely away with the pickings from their robbery. In this case retribution came even more swiftly. Thanks to excellent police work by members of the Mountain Rise serious crimes unit, the killers have within two weeks been arrested, convicted and jailed for life.

The importance of these cases cannot be over emphasised. Far more than the threat of draconian punishment, it is the definite expectation of being caught that makes criminals think twice before they strike, and then to opt for the safer route. Of course, these cases — the killing of a child and of a pop star — were such as to attract unusual attention from the authorities. Nonetheless, the recognition that the criminal justice system can work effectively will help to deter criminals, to increase public confidence, and to encourage ordinary folk to play their part in helping to defeat crime.

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