Murders trending down in west, stakeholders happy
For the first time in several years, the four parishes that comprise Area One of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) have all entered the second half of a new year with lower murder figures than the corresponding period last year.
Over the last decade and a half, western Jamaica, especially the parishes of St James and Westmoreland, has emerged as the epicentre of the nation’s worrisome murder problem, sparking a variety of policing initiatives to blunt the lawlessness, which has proven deleterious to enticing new investors and keeping the existing ones happy.
Last year, the situation got so bad that at the urging of stakeholders across the region, to include the usually reluctant tourism sector, the Government launched the nation’s first-ever tri-parish state of public emergency in April, blanketing the parishes of Hanover, St James and Westmoreland with the full might of the JCF and the Jamaica Defence Force.
However, based on the JCF’s latest serious crime statistics for the first six months of this year, the situation has toned down somewhat, with 31 fewer murders over the comparative period last year. The latest statistics show 120 murders across the four parishes broken down as follows: St James, 56; Westmoreland, 40; Trelawny, 12; and Hanover, 12. Last year, there were 151 murders over the corresponding period. St James had 67, Westmoreland 52, Hanover, 18, and Trelawny, 15.
While noting that the latest statistics are encouraging, as it relates to the bid to create a safe environment for residents, the business community and investors, businesswoman Janet Silvera, the president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is hoping that the Chinese business community, which is increasingly being targeted by armed robbers, will also benefit from the reprieve.
“This reduction in murders and serious crimes is an encouraging sign. As a chamber, it is quite pleasing because we all want to operate in safe surroundings,” said Silvera. “I am hoping that this will extend into the Chinese business community, who have been targeted by criminals in recent robberies. Our concern covers all groupings across all sectors.”
Silvera is hoping that the authorities will make a serious push to capitalise on the current situation by expanding the Jamaica Eye programme, which provides greater surveillance and give the security forces an extra crime-fighting tool.
At the start of the year, Superintendent Vernon Ellis, the commanding officer for St James, indicated that one of his goals for the year would be to keep murders below 100 – a feat that has not been achieved in almost two decades.
“We believe we have done the required groundwork and we have the required resources, especially with the support of the military through the SOE, so once we get the support of the residents, we can keep murders below 100 this year,” said Ellis at the time.
While murders and shootings are trending in the right direction, the incidents of rape have been emerging as an area of serious concern, especially in Westmoreland, which has seen a disturbing uptick in the numbers in comparison to last year. The breakdown for the four parishes so far this year is:
Westmoreland, 25; St James, 17; Hanover, 11; and Trelawny, 6; a total of 59. Last year, over the comparative period, there were 52 cases broken down as follows: Westmoreland, 17; Trelawny, 5; St James, 19; and Hanover, 11.