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We're doomed - Extraditing Coke will drive up crime, say most J'amaicans

Published:Tuesday | June 15, 2010 | 12:00 AM
The hunt for fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke took the security forces to two houses yesterday in the upscale neighbourhood of East Kirkland Heights, St Andrew. Up to press time last night, a strong military/police presence was being maintained outside 15 Kirkland Avenue. One of the houses searched is reportedly owned by Coke associate, Justin O'Gilvie. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

The chronic failure of the State to throw high-profile Mafia bosses and community dons in jail has drastically diminished the confidence of the citizenry in the Government and the security forces to protect them from gangsters.

A recent poll commissioned by The Gleaner revealed that most Jamaicans would be happy to see the back of Tivoli Gardens enforcer Christopher 'Dudus' Coke - alleged drug kingpin-turned-fugitive - but are worried that his demise could trigger a spike in crime.

Migratory criminals - particularly rapists and thieves - rarely make forays into the domains of Jamaican dons; if they do, such personae non gratae are subjected to jungle justice, where the don is judge, juror and executioner. But in return for protection and occasional distribution of largesse, residents and business people are forced to pay tribute into their coffers.

More crime without Coke

A significant 69 per cent of Jamaicans surveyed in a Bill Johnson poll conducted on April 24, 25 and May 1 - weeks before the military incursion into Tivoli Gardens - believed that crime would trend upwards if Coke was eventually extradited.

Contrastingly, a mere eight per cent believed that the crime levels would dip.

Another 14 per cent did not share any view, while nine per cent thought Coke's extradition would have no effect on the crime rate.

Yet, 57 per cent of Jamaicans surveyed thought that so-called dons were bad for Jamaica.

Another 30 per cent could not make up their minds, while only nine per cent were of the view that area kingpins who operated states within the state were good for the country.

The Golding administration inherited the crippling crime woes from the People's National Party (PNP).

Despite several measures during the 18 years the PNP was in office, the crime rate climbed steadily.

In 1980, the year the previous Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration took over, 889 murders were committed.

Fall in murders

The figure fell to 439 in 1981, the first full year of the Seaga administration.

When the PNP took over in 1989, the homicide toll was 414.

Data show that 1,574 murders were committed in 2007. The PNP demitted office early September that year.

The figures indicate that violent crime leaped between 1989 and 2001 and has continued to gallop in the almost three years since the JLP assumed the reins of power.

The boiling frustration of the people has been unleashed on the present Government.

Thirty-eight per cent of the Jamaicans polled were of the view that the former PNP administration - under Michael Manley, P.J. Patterson and then Portia Simpson Miller - did a better job of curbing crime than the Golding administration.

No edge for any party

However, an even more significant 49 per cent of Jamaicans demonstrated that they were dissatisfied with both the PNP and the JLP, while 14 per cent gave the Government the nod over the former administration.

Significantly, 71 per cent of Jamaicans surveyed expressed grave apprehension that a member of their family could be the next victim, with another 13 per cent saying they had moderate concerns.

Jamaicans also signalled that they felt extremely helpless against criminals, with 54 per cent saying they were simply being extra careful, while another 32 per cent said they did nothing in particular.

Only two per cent said they used guns to protect themselves.

The Johnson poll, which surveyed 1,008 respondents, has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com