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EDITORIAL - Why we should be outraged

Published:Sunday | April 4, 2010 | 12:00 AM

By this newspaper's count, at least 409 people were murdered in Jamaica during the first 90 days of 2010. That translates to more than four persons being killed every day of the year between January and the end of March.

And we suspect that we have undercounted. But even if we have not, and rely solely on the official crime statistics published by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), the data remains chilling.

According to the JCF, during the first 80 days of the year, up to March 21, the latest period for which the figures are available, there were 344 murders in Jamaica, indicating a daily homicide rate that is statistically significant from our own count.

It is to be noted that these figures do not include the 63 police homicides up to March 21, ostensibly criminals shot dead by police officers, having been attacked by these criminals.

These numbers are, of themselves, frighteningly bad, suggestive of a carnage that would be intolerable to most normal, civilised societies, especially ones that are supposedly not at war. But two things about these statistics cause us grave worry, and why this newspaper, starting with this edition, will resume publishing, on its front page, an ongoing tally of the country's murder count.

First, our figures suggest a 17 per cent rise in the number of homicides during the first three months of the year, compared with the corresponding period in 2009. The JCF's figures for the period indicate a hike heading towards 12 per cent. Even assuming that the police's numbers are correct, this steep spike ought to be a cause for concern among policymakers and others in the society.

No significant awareness

Yet, we sense no outrage and worse - and this is our second point - no significant awareness on the part of the Government of the existing crisis of criminality in Jamaica and the fact this it is growing worse. For, if the current trend were to continue, sustaining a 12 per cent increase in murders, Jamaica would this year record approximately 200 more homicides than in 2009, pushing the figure to around 1,880. At a 17 per cent trajectory, the final murder figure would be a mere 34 shy of 2,000.

To put it bluntly, the administration has displayed abject leadership on this matter of crime and has failed to inspire confidence that it has either the inclination, will or suite of policies with which to attack crime in Jamaica.

Economic issues

To be fair to Prime Minister Bruce Golding, he did, even if indirectly, engineer the resignation of the police chief, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, towards the end of last year.

Since then, the prime minister has perhaps been distracted by economic issues, or too busy protecting the constitutional rights of one of his constituents who the Americans want to extradite on charges of narcotics smuggling and gunrunning, to pay too much attention to crime. His national security minister, Mr Dwight Nelson, has talked. Mr Nelson, though, appears to enjoy diminished authority in the Cabinet.

Mr Owen Ellington, earmarked for the job as police chief, is yet to be appointed because of disagreements over his contract. No one, it appears, is responsible and accountable.

And we all should be outraged.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.