Murder alarm - Spike in killings could cripple investor confidence, businessmen warn
Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
As the bloodletting by criminals continues seemingly unabated, police statistics have revealed that all but five of the 19 police divisions across the island have reported an increase in murders this year.
Further, according to statistics compiled by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), eight of these divisions recorded double-digit increases.
This adds up to 1,130 reported murders between January 1 and the first week of this month, a 10 per cent spike when compared with the corresponding period last year.
"The trends are very alarming," Christopher Zacca, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, declared yesterday.
"It hasn't gotten there yet, but if it (current trend) continues, it will shake investor confidence," he warned.
Zacca said that the business community is very concerned about the latest developments because "we were making progress, but in recent months, those trends have been reversed".
With the continued attempts by the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration to woo overseas investors, the president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, Brian Pengelley, believes the country's crime situation could make it a tough sell.
"People looking to do business in Jamaica - or expand their businesses to Jamaica - will take these things into consideration," he said.
But the real impact, Pengelley warned, will be felt by the consumer, as more businesses seek to pass on the additional security costs they incur.
However, Deputy Commissioner of Police Glenmore Hinds yesterday refuted suggestions that the country's crime situation was out of control.
"We have concerns about the crime situation, but we don't believe it is out of control, and the data will support this view," he said, noting that, overall, major crimes are down 16 per cent this year.
Hinds, who is in charge of the JCF's operations portfolio, blamed the increased murders on the splintering of some of the country's deadliest criminal gangs, including the Spanish Town-based Clansman Gang and the Shower Posse, once led by Christopher Coke.
"We started the year monitoring 28 gang conflicts, and up to yesterday [Wednesday], we were monitoring 62 gang conflicts," Hinds revealed.
Up to the end of September, 11 police divisions had recorded increases in murders, six of which reported increases of 25 per cent or more. At that time, there were 856 reported murders, five per cent more than the corresponding period in 2012.
A breakdown of the latest JCF statistics show that the St Mary police division reported a 89 per cent jump in murders across the parish, the largest increase for any division. Trelawny and Kingston Western police divisions each reported a 60 per cent increase, while there was a 52 per cent in the Kingston Central division.
There were eight murders reported in Portland.
While shooting inched up one per cent, other categories of serious crimes - such as rapes and robberies - declined by 19 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively.