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Bloodiest year ever: 1,680 murders, St Mary records lowest figures for 2009

Published:Saturday | January 9, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Glenroy Sinclair, Assignment Coordinator

WHILE EXTRAORDINARY levels of violence have severely hit some parishes across the island, St Mary, which customarily takes its fair share of battering from natural disasters, has proven to be one of the safest places to live in Jamaica.

This is according to the crime statistics for 2009, which revealed that last year was the worst - or bloodiest - in the country's history. Of the 1,680 persons murdered last year, 14 of the victims were slain in St Mary, the parish with the lowest homicide rate.

"God is in the midst and I allow Him to lead. I listen to His voice when He speaks, and I take my inspiration from Him. I have a committed management team and an excellent relationship with the residents," commented Superin-tendent Dudley Scott, the divisional commander for St Mary, who was explaining how his team effectively policed the parish.

He said the parish has some first-class neighbourhood-watch programmes, an excellent public-education programme in the schools, and this was complemented by a strong intelligence network and a good relationship with the residents.

"Outside of that, we occupied the hot spots and public spaces," said Superintendent Scott, a 32-year veteran of the Jamaica Consta-bulary Force who got baptised 15 years ago.

According to the crime statistics, the St Mary police recorded the largest percentage decrease in murders in 2009, moving from 33 in 2008, to 14 in 2009, for a 58 per cent decrease.

principal products

The parish has a population of 111,466 and is 254 square miles. It has a variety of agricultural resources. The principal products are banana, sugar, citrus, pimento, cocoa, coconut and coffee.

The statistics for the country indicate a four per cent increase over 2008 in the number of murders recorded. Of the 1,680 murders in 2009, intra-gang and internal gang feuds, plus reprisals, were blamed for the 859 murders. The gun was the most popular murder weapon, claiming the lives of 1,292 persons.

Among the areas with the most murders were St James - 240, St Andrew south - 238, St Catherine north - 179, St Catherine south - 164, Clarendon - 161, and St Andrew north - 121.

The majority of the killings occurred in October, which accounted for 177, July - 163, May - 155, December - 153, November - 147, and August - 145.