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Jamaican Cops get Advice from U.S. Colleagues

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Jamaican police officials headed home with law enforcement techniques that they plan to use to stem gang-related violence.

Posted on Sat, Aug. 09, 2008

Jamaican police officials gleaned law enforcement tips from South Florida authorities as part of a trip aiming to help them curb gang violence on the island.

At a conference in Doral, police officials from the Jamaica Constabulary Force said on Friday that they plan to use strategies such as making police officers more well-rounded and giving anti-gang education to kids at an earlier age.

''We're seeing where we can take bits and pieces from different projects,'' said Stephanie Lindsay-Clarke, a police inspector with the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

The visit comes at a time when Jamaican authorities are wrestling with rampant gang-related crime and violence -- underscored by the string of cops killed this year.

Earlier this month, two police officers were gunned down within an hour of each other.

Officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) say the crime and violence is a serious impediment to the country's growth.

''We find that this issue supersedes all other issues,'' Bertrand Laurent, a USAID official based in Jamaica said Friday on the final day of the three-day conference.

The event was co-sponsored by the Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas.

''[We need] a peaceful Jamaica to lead the region the way it should be,'' Laurent said.

During their visit, the four police officials also met with individuals from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Department of Juvenile Justice, and the North Miami Beach police department.

From the ATF, one Jamaican police official said he learned how the Jamaican police force can work more efficiently.

''One of the things we need is will,'' said Merrick Watson, deputy superintendent of police.

The senior police officer said he was surprised at some of the lax weapons laws in Florida.

''You can drive a pickup truck to a dealer and fill it up with guns,'' Watson said.

Lindsay-Clarke said she noticed that gang-prevention programs in the States start educating kids in elementary schools whereas Jamaican efforts don't start until high school.

Police officials said they hoped members of the Jamaican diaspora would lobby on issues that benefit the Caribbean island.

''Our presence here is an indication of our commitment and seriousness,'' Lindsay-Clarke said. ``I think that's one of the messages that will be sent on.''


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