Mon | Sep 24, 2018

Five murders a day - Outrage from civil-society leaders as 100 killed in first 20 days of new year, with 12 killed in 24 hours

Published:Tuesday | January 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/ Senior Gleaner Writer
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Civil-society leaders reacted with alarm and disgust after it was revealed yesterday that Jamaica recorded 100 murders 20 days into the new year.

The latest statistics compiled by the police revealed, too, that a suspect was arrested and charged in just 28 of those killings, as criminals continue to get away with murder.

"Sickening, disgusting, terrible," were the words used by Metry Seaga, president of the private-sector lobby group, Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, to describe the country's escalating murder rate.

For the Reverend Dr Lenworth Anglin, the situation is "alarming and intolerable.

"It is frightening and something that we can't live with," said Anglin, a founding member of the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches.

According to the Jamaica Constabulary Force's (JCF) latest Periodic Serious and Violent Crime Review, the 100 murders - at an average of five per day - is approximately 15 per cent ahead of last year's pace.

A total of 1,616 persons were murdered across the island last year, an increase of more than 20 per cent when compared with 2016, and the highest since 2009, when 1,680 persons were killed.

St Catherine, with its two police divisions, recorded 18 murders to lead all parishes.

St Andrew, with 15 murders across its three police divisions; Clarendon with 13; and St James with 11, round out the top four.

The JCF data revealed, too, that nine of the 19 police divisions nationwide reported an increase in murders.

 

WE HAVE BECOME A VIOLENT SOCIETY

 

Asked what stood out about the wave of murders, Anglin pointed to the gunfight that reportedly broke out between gangsters at a funeral in St James on Saturday even as the parish was under a state of public emergency.

"Just the ferocity of the killings and the nature of some of these murders," the clergyman emphasised.

Seaga said he was bothered by the general lawlessness.

"There is a general breakdown of law and order in the society, and we need to get it rectified immediately," he told The Gleaner. "From driving on the roads to general confrontations, we have just become a violent society."

Howard Mitchell, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, said the JCF data are an indication that "the current [anti-crime] initiatives are not working.

"Clearly, there is more that we have to do," Mitchell said.

Opposition Spokesman on National Security Fitz Jackson placed the blame for the escalation in murders this year on the Government's inability to manage the challenges associated with crime.

"The dithering of Prime Minister [Andrew] Holness to act forcefully and strategically in the high-crime areas, after much urging from the Opposition and others, has brought the country to a state of public emergency in St James," Jackson asserted.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com