WHILE EXPRESSING hope that Jamaica is on a good path in further reducing the murder rate, Dr Elizabeth Ward, chairman of the Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA), has expressed concerns about the number of preventative programmes that are implemented in rural areas.
Last year, Jamaica recorded 1,005 murders - the lowest figure in a decade and 195 fewer than 2013. The country, however, needs to reduce murders by a cumulative 305 over the next two years (based on a 2.8-million population estimate) to attain the target set by the social partnership.
Areas of concern
Citing St James and Clarendon as serious areas of concern for the last year, Ward noted that, over the years, intervention initiatives have been primarily carried out in Kingston communities. She said a renewed shift is needed in other parishes.
St James recorded a murder total of 157 in 2014, down from 166 in 2013, while Clarendon recorded 68 murders, which is 28 fewer than the 96 recorded for the
corresponding period in 2013.
"I commend the work that was done last year by the various stakeholders, particularly in the schools. However, we have to sustain them and reduce the failing along the way because these failures are what feed into the environment, resulting in big problems in areas where they didn't exist. Clarendon and St James are primary examples," Ward said.
"I know that the Clarendon Crime Prevention Committee has done extensive work and has been quite effective, and VPA, along with other NGOs (non-governmental organisations) did some work in Flankers and Granville (in St James), but the plain truth is that they have not been very effective, and there are some real challenges in rural areas when it comes to crime," she lamented.
Ward noted that the work that has started in Kingston must continue, adding that data-oriented initiatives must be the way forward.
"The trouble, however, is that you can't leave Kingston alone. There are a number of maintenance programmes that have to go on, because there is a myriad of problems that still exist and must be sustained," she told The Gleaner.
"We can take what we have learnt in Kingston and spread it to other areas, but there has to be a way to get effective programmes and initiatives up and running, especially in Clarendon and St James," she said.
"We also have to work a lot with data, it is very important. Work must be done with the hospitals and the communities so that, as policymakers, we can be guided and we are able to measure what works and what doesn't," she said.
Ward added: "I truly believe that there is hope and I am confident that all is not lost, but a lot will depend on resources that are allocated to these areas and team effort."