Jamaica adopts five year crime plan
Authorities in Jamaica target a murder rate of less than one per day by 2017.
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday, February 22, 2012 – The decline that Jamaica experienced in its murder rate last year appears to have been short-lived as police statistics show that 165 persons were murdered in the first seven weeks of this year, 30 more than the corresponding period last year.
Now Jamaica is developing a new policy to battle crime as gang violence drives the homicide rate higher, the country’s top security official said yesterday (February 21).
National Security Minister Peter Bunting announced yesterday that a National Security Policy to reduce murders from the current three per day to less than one over the next five years is to be made public next month.
According to Bunting, the plan is to reduce crime to first world levels by 2017. For this to be achieved, Bunting said, the murder rate will have to fall from the 41 per 100,000 ratio in 2011 to 12 per 100,000.
This, he added further, would result in the maximum number of murders being 321, which would be less than one per day.
Last year, Jamaica had 1,125 slayings, a roughly 22 percent drop from the 1,442 killings in 2010. A record 1,683 people were killed in 2009.
Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said at the news conference with Bunting that much of the security forces’ resources are now focused on trying to contain 42 active gang conflicts.
Ellington told reporters that the Shower Posse gang, which was controlled by convicted drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke from his slum stronghold of Tivoli Gardens, has been significantly hobbled since his capture in June 2010 but remains an active gang in West Kingston.
While a major component of the policy will be to go after the proceeds of crime, Bunting said social interventions will be made in communities dominated by criminals.
The gang strategy, he said, has been to confront the gangs and try to take charge of the community when law enforcement drives out the gangs.
Speaking to a broad anti-gang strategy, the minister said while the plan is to identify the hardcore gang members and confront them, this has to be balanced with another softer intervention to reach potential recruits and those on the periphery.
A strategy to tackle this will be the deployment of local police officers to communities and the roll-out of an anti-gang media campaign.
Another initiative will be a Community Safety Corp Programme which will target at-risk youth for enlistment into a cadet-type programme aimed at re-socialising them.
The Citizens Security and Justice Programme will also be expanded from 39 communities to 55 with majority of the new ones being rolled out in the St Catherine North division.
Another strategy being deployed in the troubled Spanish Town and Montego Bay communities is the establishment of permanent police posts.
He announced that the police have established permanent presence in Gravel Heights and urged the residents who fled their homes to return.
Similar presence has also been established in Shelter Rock and Quarry in St Catherine, and Tucker, Granville and Rose Heights in St James.
Bunting said a major goal is to target gang kingpins and facilitators for organized criminal networks, not the people lower down the chain. Many of those arrested in previous years have been underlings who had little connection to gang leadership. Such workers are easily replaced.
Bunting intends to create a task force to identify and arrest crime facilitators, such as accountants, real estate brokers, lawyers and corrupt public officials. He also hopes to give courts greater power to seize.