Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
SIX MONTHS after labelling St James, the parish with the highest incidence of crime, Jamaica's Minister of National Security, Peter Bunting, says there has been a dramatic reduction in murders in the western township.
"There has been a 50 per cent reduction in murders, which is phenomenal," said the minister while addressing members of The St James Police Civic Committee at The Wexford Hotel in Montego Bay Thursday evening.
Bunting said there was a noticeable difference since the rape of the five females, including an eight-year-old, in Irwin Point St James last September.
Pointing out that the statistics represented the last quarter, he said January too was encouraging, as it posted a 47 per cent reduction on the corresponding period in 2012.
"Fifty per cent is not trivial, it is dramatic. If we can hold it, it will change the quality of life for the citizens in the parish," he said.
The national security minister posited that if the numbers could be sustained, this would result in a better business environment and improvement in tourism.
Acknowledging that the parish still had its challenges, particularly, as it relates to sexual offences and lottery scamming, Bunting said he was, however, heartened by the fact that some communities were now getting involved and being proactive.
"When I first started to engage the people in Montego Bay (the capital of St James), they were in denial, those who were not in denial held their heads in the sand," he said.
Enough is enough
Bunting said the turning point was last September when the five females were raped.
"I got the sense that the citizens were saying, enough is enough, we are not accepting this anymore, not for our children, not for our mothers or our fathers."
Coming out of a tough 48 hours where two policemen were killed, one murdered, the other shot during a training exercise; the abduction and murder of a 14-year-old girl and the cold-blooded daylight shooting of a four-year-old boy in Kingston Central Thursday morning, the national security minister said he was happy to hear some good news.
"And St James' murder statistics are among the good news, along with the fact that community groups are becoming more engaged in what happens in their area," he noted.