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'Jamaicans turning to vigilante justice'

Published:Tuesday | March 2, 2010 | 12:00 AM

THE BARACK OBAMA-led administration has signalled that "trust in the (Jamaican) Government to provide peace and security" for its citizens is waning by the day.

The United States Government is suggesting that because of the Government's inability to deal effectively with the scourge of crime, "some communities are resorting to the use of "vigilante style" law and order by forming community policing units to target criminals who threaten their families and businesses".

Last year, the country recorded 1,680 murders, erasing the previous record of 1,674 set in 2005.

The no-holds-barred comments are contained in the US State Department's
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2010
, which was released yesterday.

According to the report, "The rise of gang-led violent crime and corruption will continue to pose a significant threat to social stability in Jamaica."

Police and political protection

At the same time, the report stated that despite the valiant efforts of Operation Kingfish - an elite unit of the police force - to tackle serious crimes, it has not been able to target "high-powered leaders of criminal gangs".

"This is due to the fact that these leaders are afforded community and, in some cases, police and political protection," the report added. It has also been pointed out that the activities of these powerful gang leaders are "often linked with legitimate business holdings".

The US State Department report highlighted that pressures of narcotics trafficking, money laundering, corruption and crime undermine the rule of law and democratic governance. Extending a hand of assistance to the country, the US said a major US policy goal was to support "Jamaica's transformation into a more secure, democratic, prosperous and stable partner".

Organised crime in Jamaica has not escaped the spotlight of the US State Department. It said organised crime had permeated both the legitimate business sector as well as the political sector.

"The 'guns-for-ganja' trade exacerbates the problem as undocumented handguns continue to flow freely into the country," the report said.

The report noted that recent assessments indicate that approximately 70 per cent of the illegal firearms entering Jamaica originated from the United States.