The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has increased its capacity to improve the safety of citizens, as well as restore and maintain public order, with the launch of its new Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch (PSTEB).
The branch, which is the result of a merger of the motorised patrol and traffic and highway divisions of the JCF, was officially launched during a ceremony at Harman Barracks in Kingston on Wednesday (August 29).
Headquartered in Kingston at the Elletson Road police complex, the branch is expected to result in improved compliance with the Road Traffic Act, reduced crime in public spaces, and increased public support to the JCF.
Speaking at the ceremony, Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, said that while the initial roll-out of the PSTEB’s operations will be in the Corporate Area, St. Catherine and major resort towns, it will eventually be expanded islandwide.
He noted that members of the branch have been specially trained to engage community members as they carry out their duties to deal with traffic, vending and the general population in public spaces, “which means their whole approach is somewhat different from the traditional way”.
“They have been trained to engage our public in a very positive way and restore not only public safety but build public trust and build public understanding with the police force as we go forward to ensure that the community, and members of the community, will feel safe,” he said.
The new branch consists of 700 members who had to undergo training in human rights and situational awareness, among other areas.
Dr. Chang noted that specifically, the PSTEB’s road-policing activities will concentrate on denying criminals the use of roads by enforcing the law, reducing road casualties, tracking the threat of criminal gangs operating in public spaces, and enhancing public confidence and reassurance by patrolling the roads.
He pointed out that one of the immediate tasks of the newly established branch is to assist with easing some of the traffic congestion expected for the back-to-school period, in light of ongoing roadworks along major thoroughfares.
“We expect them to have a positive impact in the back-to-school week. They are going out this week to get a feel of what’s happening out there. We expect this branch to work with the National Works Agency (NWA). There will still be some challenges, but I am confident that this team will work to ensure that the back-to-school week is much smoother than it was before,” the Minister said.
For his part, Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson, said establishment of the branch was necessary, as the JCF is aware that it needs to be “far more visible”, noting that through the increased presence of the police, “hopefully we can shape behaviour and not spend as much time on enforcement”.
“With high visibility, there needs to be high accessibility. So, we need to be more accessible to the public. We need to be more approachable, we need to be seen. We need to be the ‘go to’ people for whatever concerns the public has on safety issues, on security issues and, I dare say, as our presence become more and more felt out there, the public will be coming to us for just about everything,” he said.
The Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch, which will feature motorcycle, motor car, bicycle and beat patrols, consists of three divisions – the Public Safety Division, Highway and Safety Patrol Division, and the Traffic Enforcement Division. Assigned officers will be easily identified in neon yellow uniforms and motorcycles. The motor vehicles are also specially marked for high visibility.
The unit’s strategic objectives are the overall improvement of public safety through strategic deployment of police assets; and a reduction in response time to demands for police service, especially in road accidents and domestic disputes.
It will also reduce crime and disorder with terrain-ready equipment, as well as targeted and sustained social-intervention strategies, in addition to which the public safety branch will be equipped with modern non-lethal equipment to assist in dealing with challenges on the roadway.