Sat | Dec 14, 2019

Jason Robinson | Motor vehicle theft: a serious and emerging threat to Jamaica’s national security

Published:Wednesday | November 20, 2019 | 12:38 AM
Global research conducted on motor vehicle theft suggests that it is a very lucrative source of income for criminal organisations and offers them many practical uses.

We hear it all the time – a vehicle stolen here, a vehicle stolen there. However, no one seems to really pay much attention to this serious and emerging threat to our national security – motor vehicle theft.

There is a very high demand for motor vehicle spare parts in Jamaica due to the influx of new and used vehicles on our roads. This phenomenon has afforded organised criminals the opportunity to expand their networks and fund criminal enterprises in a simpler and lucrative way.

In 2016, Raquel Porter highlighted in an Observer article how motor vehicle theft has moved beyond scrapping for parts to become a multibillion-dollar car-cloning operation which involves government workers and auto parts dealers.

Data from the Insurance Association of Jamaica (IAJ) show that between 2014 and 2016, a total of 3,071 motor vehicles were stolen in Jamaica, with Toyota, Nissan, and Honda vehicles mostly affected. So far this year, that number has reached 763, and this figure is expected to increase.


In 2014, an Interpol Global Report identified links between motor vehicle theft, money laundering, terrorism, robbery, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and other forms of organised crime. This has serious implications for public safety and economic stability in Jamaica due to the significant amount of money associated with motor vehicle theft. According to the former president of the IAJ, Paul Lalor, in 2008, the motor insurance industry paid out $1.6 billion in claims for motor vehicle theft, followed by $1.8 billion in 2009, and $1.7 billion in 2010.

Global research conducted on motor vehicle theft suggests that it is a very lucrative source of income for criminal organisations and offers them many practical uses. As a result, some of our local institutions have become susceptible to penetration by these wealthy and influential criminals. This has been highlighted in instances where police officers and other government workers have been arrested in connection with motor vehicle theft rings.

The criminal connection between organised criminal groups, some government agencies as well as the business community represents a clear and present danger, particularly by expanding their criminal activities through bribery, extortion, and corruption at a time when organised criminal networks are expanding at a rapid pace.

In 2013, an Observer article reported that the Reverend Jeffery Shuttleworth announced on TBC radio that there were 190 gangs operating across Jamaica. However, quite recently, information from the Jamaica Constabulary Force suggests that this number has reached approximately 300.

Over the last decade, motor vehicle theft has put billions of dollars in the hands of organised criminals in Jamaica, which they could use to acquire weapons to protect their turf; defend themselves against warring factions; carry out killings and other acts of violence; and penetrate legitimate institutions.

It is in this regard that motor vehicle theft and other crimes associated with it pose a clear and present danger to Jamaica’s national security and economic viability.

Jason Robinson is a former organised crime investigator and graduate of the Caribbean Maritime University. He holds a Master of Science in Security Administration and Management. Email feedback to and