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Strategies to combat violence and poverty in Jamaica

The Caribbean nation has a high homicide rate: 47 per 100,000 inhabitants, almost three times the average for Latin America and the Caribbean, which is around 16 per 100,000. But the strategies now in place mean that today, the country is suffering less from this scourge.


Shadows. Photo by Greg Walters. Flickr

Claudia Gómez


The Jamaican government is developing a project to design and implement a National Security Plan to reduce the impact of violence and criminality throughout the country.

According to Jamaican Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, the initiative aims to reduce homicide rates and strives to achieve a lower rate than that of Latin America and the Caribbean within the next decade.

In this respect, he assures that whilst 2018 was a positive year for the reduction of violent crimes, with the application of strategic measures and states of emergency, “we are not out of danger”.

Holness states that in certain areas of the country it will take time to determine the best strategies and methods to tackle crime. He also provides data that illustrates the reduction in crime: in 2018 287,000 murders were recorded, which is 21.9% less than in 2017 and 4.9% less than in 2016.

Caribbean Life. Photo by Rennett Stowe. Flickr.

Poverty, increasing expectations that go unfulfilled, class antagonisms, the social consciousness of the marginalised classes, and drug-trafficking are amongst the causes of this wave of criminal violence being experienced by Jamaica.

For more than a year, the country has been experiencing constant states of emergency in different cities, due the high rate of criminality and violence that was reported when this measure came into force.

On the 20th January 2018, the Jamaican government declared a state of emergency in St. James parish, which includes the tourist destination of Montego Bay, due to the significant increase of violence in the streets.

This measure allowed law enforcement agencies to carry out spot searches on businesses, vehicles and pedestrians, which owners or clients could not refuse.

Likewise, it allowed the resorts to remain under a temporary curfew, until 15th February of the same year, when the government requested an extension, after having recorded a significant decline in violence and criminality, and declared it in other cities in the country, including the capital.

In spite of the situation of “insecurity” in the country, Minister for Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, assured the press that Jamaica had continued and continues to be a safe destination for foreign visitors, as the military operations to do not put tourists at risk.

In one of his petitions to the House of Representatives to continue applying this measure when necessary, the prime minister stated that the states of emergency declared in Jamaica from 2018 to date have proved to be effective, with a 68% reduction in the number of deaths.

As he explained, Montego Bay is the country’s second biggest city and the first for tourism, and there, throughout the “duration of the state of emergency (18th March to 2nd September) 27 murders and 22 shootings were recorded”. A lower figure than the 82 and 72 respectively before the implementation of this law.

Furthermore, Holness assured that this is not the long-term solution; rather his government working to gather more intelligence and build cooperative networks in the different communities, which will lead to “the sustainable reduction of crime”.

Tackling this evil that punishes Jamaican society in a more forceful and effective way coincided then, with the Jamaican tourist industry’s most successful holiday season, and had “the support of stakeholders in tourism”.

Today the country is experiencing less violence, thanks to the states of emergency, and the tourist sector is no exception; the minister for tourism ordered the auditing of security systems with the aim of strengthening the guarantees the country offers as a destination. 2018 was not the first time that this type of measure was implemented in the country.

In 2010 it was also necessary due to serious disturbances and clashes between the police and violent gangs in the capital. (PL)

(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu) – Photos: Pixabay

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