Private sector buoyed by plunging murders
Leaders of two major business lobbies have expressed optimism about the sharp decline in murders and other serious crimes in 2023 and hope maintenance of that trajectory will boost the economy.
Statistics released on Monday by the Jamaica Constabulary Force show a 37 per cent year-on-year drop in murders as at January 29.
Eighty-six murders were recorded since the start of the year compared to 137 for the corresponding period in 2022.
Metry Seaga, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), said he is “very, very” pleased that murders have plummeted.
“We are hopeful that it’s something that will continue. We are cautiously optimistic that the things that have been put in place are working and will continue to work. We just hope and pray that this is the start of the reduction of this beast that we call murder,” Seaga said in a Gleaner interview on Monday.
“They have told us what they need to get done to move the needle and thankfully the needle is moving.”
Seaga said that crime’s impact on Jamaica’s social and human capital was incalculable. Experts theorise that it amounts, conservatively, to four per cent of gross domestic product.
But he insisted that the real metric is far greater than dollars and cents.
“We can all talk about murder in a flippant way until it happens to one of us or one of our loved ones, and that is what we are trying to get a hold of. When murder happens to somebody that is close to us, that’s it, that’s forever,” Seaga said.
Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) President Michael McMorris is also sold on the multiplier value of a reduction in murders and other serious crimes.
“I think the psyche of the populace would be much improved if there was a feeling of confidence in security or your ability to be secure. The value is immeasurable when you think about things like that, as opposed to just less businesses will be broken into and there will be less extortion, and so on.
“Those things are obvious relief, but I think there is an overall benefit for your populace when you have reduced crime or low crime,” McMorris told The Gleaner.
The JCC president believes that the fall in violent crime is part of a larger downward trajectory since November, with three 14-day states of public emergency (SOPE) imposed since then. High interest in the monthlong football World Cup, which climaxed on December 18, is also believed to have been an auspicious distraction for even criminals.
McMorris has also credited the decline to the deployment of more boots on the ground.
“We did not have the SOPE that was present in December, but there could be continuing effects of that or it could demonstrate that the deployment, even without the SOPE, is working,” he added.
McMorris told The Gleaner that a sustained decline in crime could lift national productivity, which economists say has been falling for the last four decades.
“Being able to focus more on output and productivity would make a big difference if you are able to get to and from your communities to your workplace without fear later in the days and evenings. It obviously would be a big boost for us,” he said.
McMorris said the Crime Monitoring Oversight Committee, an independent body that aims to forge consensus among the private sector, civil society, academia, and the political directorate, has sought to establish measurable benchmarks for the security forces.
According to the latest statistics, Kingston Western and Clarendon, with 11 each, have recorded the most murders of the 19 police divisions.
The top five are rounded out by St James, nine; and Westmoreland and St Andrew South with seven each.
There have been no reports of murder in Trelawny and Portland. All other divisions have one or more.
There has been an overall reduction in shootings, injuries, rape, robberies, and break-ins since the start of the year.
A total of 1,498 murders – a five-year high – were recorded in 2022.