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Murder madness - Jamaica averaging 100 homicides monthly

Published:Wednesday | September 21, 2016 | 9:00 AMLivern Barrett

Jamaica is on the verge of recording 900 murders since the start of the year, with just over three months still remaining.

Police data obtained by The Gleaner show that up to yesterday, 893 persons were reported murdered across the 19 police divisions islandwide since January 1. This is just over one per cent more than the 882 killings recorded for the correspondent period last year.

According to the data, Jamaica is averaging almost 100 murders each month, or just over three per day.

Statistics also show that 184 of the 893 murders this year were recorded in St James, putting the parish on the brink of recording more than 200 murders in a calendar year for a second straight year. Last year, the St James police recorded just over 205 murders.

The escalating crime rate has not escaped the attention of private-sector leaders and members of the Economic Growth Council (EGC), the body appointed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to help spur economic growth.

The EGC, in a report to sent to Cabinet last week, outlined a number of growth-inducing measures, along with specific policy proposals to boost the economy, and singled out the country's crime problem as a major concern.

"Improving citizen security is the most consequential growth-inducing reform that Jamaica can undertake. Jamaicans need to experience dramatically improved levels of security and feelings of personal safety," the EGC suggested in a statement to the media.

However, the Michael Lee-Chin-led council, which is seeking to grow the Jamaican economy by five per cent in four years, has cautioned that improved citizen security will require drastic, systemic reforms across several platforms, including the judiciary and the police force.

"Piecemeal, knee-jerk responses that lack depth and perspective are unlikely to improve outcomes. It requires a comprehensive approach encompassing judicial and police reform, while also addressing entrenched problems of social exclusion among other measures," the EGC underscored.

Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA), and Paul 'PB' Scott, head of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), agreed.

"The problems are systemic. They are systems within the [police] force, they are systems within the justice system, and until we can get those problems ironed out, acts changed, regulations changed and good management systems in both justice [the courts], and the JCF we wasting time," Seaga said.

"And the truth is we have got to get it fixed if we are to do anything in this country about growth," he added.

He argued that successive administrations have not approached the task of tackling the decades-old crime problem "from the ground up".

"I don't think we have ever looked at the system and the management of the system ... and I don't think that we have ever looked at the justice component of the problem in a real way as it relates to crime. I feel that what the Economic Growth Council is coming out with, hopefully sooner rather than later, will be a road map to us moving forward and getting the problems fixed," he asserted.

Scott told The Gleaner that the escalating crime rate was having a "massive impact" on members of the private sector. "It's very, very significant and it is an impediment to economic growth," he observed.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com