US$10-m crime fund in the making

NEW YORK, USA — Jamaica could soon benefit from a US$10-million Diaspora crime fund which has just been proposed and warmly embraced by some of the main Jamaican groups here, to help slash the murder rate in their homeland.

Jamaicans resident overseas would be asked to contribute US$10 each to the fund, said the man who proposed it, former Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Lance Corporal Mark Parkinson, a founding member and past president of the Jamaica Ex-Soldiers Association (JESA).

The crime fund would be spearheaded by US-based ex-members of groups including: the JDF; the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF); Department of Correctional Services; and the Jamaica Fire Service.

Parkinson’s call also received immediate support from the Diaspora Task Force on crime and the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council, which are among groups expressing concerns about the the spiralling murder rate in Jamaica since the start of the year.

Acknowledging that the Government — like others before it — lacked the financial resources to mount a large and effective crime plan, Parkinson said a Diaspora crime fund was necessary to assist the Government to craft a comprehensive crime plan, with emphasis on procuring urgently needed equipment and technology.

“I believe that given the estimated one million or more Jamaicans who reside in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, the target can be reached through a series of fund-raising events and a voluntary contribution of US$10 minimum,” Parkinson said.

The Jamaican Embassy in Washington said that the 2010 US census found that approximately 1.3 million Jamaican nationals reside in the US and the Jamaican Consulate in Toronto, Canada said the 2016 Canada census listed the Jamaican population at 309,485, while the Jamaican High Commission estimated the population in the UK at 800,000.

Parkinson said the idea was to employ the highest level of scrutiny, openness and transparency through auditing and full and regular reports on the amounts raised, and the level of expenditure undertaken with the funds, in an effort to build confidence and support.

Parkinson, who spent 11 years in the military in Jamaica before emigrating to the US, is currently a financial service professional with the 176-year-old New York Life Insurance Company, regarded as the oldest in the United States. He has been with the company for the past 16 years and is a member of its million-dollar round table.

Pointing to the over 300 homicides in less than three months of the new year, and more than a thousand murders in Jamaica last year, he called on the other pro-Jamaican groups to join in getting the fund off to a speedy start.

He estimated that the Government should be able to draw down on the fund within a year to finance the procurement and deployment of high-technology surveillance cameras, high-level tracking equipment and scanning devices.

“Once the necessary funding is in place, dialogue will be held with the Government to determine those items which are of greatest needs,” said Parkinson, acknowledging that some of the things he is advocating for were are already being addressed.

“The trouble is that a lot more needs to be done, and it is clear the Government is facing serious financial constraints,” said, arguing that such assistance would give the Diaspora a stronger voice in local affairs.

Ronnie Hammick, who heads the Ex-Correctional Officers Association of Jamaica, and who has previously called for a similar meeting, said “the move is long over due”.

Dwight P Bailey, who served in the JCF for several years, as well as Keith N Smellie, a former corrections officer, said they would be committed to support and contribute to a Diaspora crime fund.

Head of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council for the North East US, Dr Karen Dunkley, said her organisation was open to any measure that would assist in reducing the “terrible” homicide rate in her homeland.

And while giving his support to Parkinson’s proposal, Dr Rupert Francis, who heads the Diaspora Task Force on crime, is among some members of the Jamaican community here who lamented the current wave of murders in the country.

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