Jamaica’s Crime Problem and National Development Plan

Subject: Politics & Government
Pages: 25
Words: 7014
Reading time:
24 min
Study level: PhD


This essay critically examines crime problems in Jamaica and the prognosis for Vision 2030 Jamaica and the proposed reforms to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) concerning a detailed review of the text Understanding Crime in Jamaica: New Challenges for Public Policy by Anthony Harriott. Harriott wrote this text a decade ago when Jamaica was celebrating its 40th year of independence. The essay shall also critically examine what has changed in Jamaica’s crime problem in the past decade.

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An overview of the text

Harriott’s text shows that crime in Jamaica has deep roots and does not need a simplistic approach in the explanation and formulation of policy solutions as it is clearly a complex affair for the country’s economic, social, and political growth. Harriott based his study on both theoretical and empirical research. This provides a valuable insight that can help Jamaica formulate a workable, crime-mitigating policy.

Harriott observes that Jamaica’s crime problem has undergone significant changes since its independence. He notes that crime problems, especially violent crime are “now more acute and complicated than ever” (Harriott 2003, 2). There have been significant developments in property and violent crimes. He notes that between the 1970s and 1990s the number of crimes related to property reduced by half. On the other hand, there was a 50 percent increment in violent crimes. The homicide rate increased from “17.6 per 100000 population in 1976 to 43 per 100000 in 2001” (Harriott 2003, 7). The trend of violent crime in Jamaica has also changed from interpersonal to inter-group violence. Gang crimes have grown significantly. Violence in Jamaica has developed into a form of business and self-protection in social conflict. In addition, it is now much more organized than in the previous decades. He further notes that the crime problem in Jamaica has grown beyond borders to the Diaspora.

This text also looks at relationships that exist between violent crime, politics, economic, and social issues. It is social changes in societies of Jamaica in terms of inter-group conflicts that are responsible for rising cases of homicide. Violent crime has increased significantly as the proliferation of small firearms increases in Jamaica and majorities join gangs. Criminal gangs offer protection to their members. Killing for the sake of the groups acts as a neutralization process to violent crimes. Gangs glorify such killing and strengthen their social ties. Harriott notes “communal bonds may be strengthened, identity affirmed and the main combatants treated as heroic figures” (Harriott 2003, 94).

According to Marlyn Jones, violence against women exists in Jamaican societies. Men are responsible for 90 percent of crimes against women. Women in Jamaica are vulnerable to sexual crimes, rape, institutional, systemic, and personal forms of violence. Jones observes that women suffer such forms of violence as reprisal due to their associations with gangs.

Readers can also draw the relationship between politics and crime. According to Amanda Sives, violence in Jamaica also has a political history (Harriott 2003, 49). Sives looked at the increase of violence from the Hearne Commission of 1949. Garrison communities in urban areas rose due to single political party influence. This system has enhanced the idea and growth of the dons of Jamaica’s garrison communities. These scholars caution against the “upward spiral in electoral, inter-community, and criminal violence” system of Jamaica (Harriott 2003, 85). Obika reinforces this idea through Badness Honour. He notes that violent crime results from “a retort to unequal power, class discrimination, and ethnic injustice” (Harriott 2003, 19). The cultural style in Jamaica is common in all ghettos across the world. The sense of despair and hopelessness pervade ghettos due to unrealized aspirations and ambitions. This creates a sense of feeling among youths that death is a part of their destiny. We can see how nihilism, hopelessness, and obsession with death as an excuse to join criminal gangs affect youths. In fact, youths view death and extreme violence as forms of redemption, better options than social fate. This shows how Jamaica’s political and social policies fail to address the plight of youths in ghettos.

Crimes and tourism in Jamaica are also essential aspects of this book. From an economic perspective, like any other Caribbean country, Jamaica relies on tourism for its economic prosperity. Alleyne and Boxill’s study shows that Jamaica’s tourism sector performs well despite increases in violent crime. They attribute this to enhanced promotional activities and the idea of all-inclusive hotels. These hotels have their solutions to crime, violence, and harassment tourists may experience. However, this cannot sustain tourism without adequate public policy. According to McElroy, the development of a sustainable tourism sector in Jamaica requires including the marginalized populations of Jamaica.

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Crime in Jamaica also affects the public policy as Harriott indicates. Harriott notes that the state has contradictory approaches in responses to violent crime. There is general public anxiety where the state responds by a promise of taking action. In most cases, the public responds by hangers and storm police stations where such alleged criminals are. According to Harriott, Jamaicans have reached a point where they have accepted crimes as part of their societies and tolerate crimes as parts of lived realities. There is no longer fear and hanger about crime.

Robotham looks at crime and public policy and offers powerful recommendations for government action. This is a prescriptive and an attempt to take Jamaica’s public policy against crime forward. This section looks at how foreigners interpret violent crime in Jamaica. There are killings that have caused widespread public outrage in Jamaica. Harriott notes that scholars in the area of violent crime are slow to take action and study the nature of crime in Jamaica. There is no apparent reason why Jamaicans cannot study violent crime. However, violent crime is widespread, stereotyped among outsiders such that people may conclude that violent crimes are oppressive state activities. This text notes that foreign researchers have not engaged appropriate conceptual, and theoretical frameworks that they can base their hypotheses on and conclude studies on Jamaica’s violent crime.

Harriott observes that there is little research about crime in Jamaica and the Caribbean region as a whole. Robotham notes that an absence of research presents difficulties in resolving crime in Jamaica. He writes “research is an essential component of discovering what works, why, and how and to what extent it works” (Harriott 2003, 236). He points out that due to minimal research works has led to policy dependence on help and consultancy services from other countries. As Harriott notes consultants only bring knowledge from their countries. In addition, they lack local knowledge of violent crime in Jamaica. Still, there is a lack of adequate time to acquire such knowledge; thus, their ideologies may not help solve local problems as such ideologies may be irrelevant. He further argues that external ideologies do not have even the basic idea about violent crime in Jamaica. Harriott also observes “any reading of the academic literature on crime in the Caribbean will reveal very modest knowledge claims, and even more modest claims to policy inventiveness and innovation” (Harriott 2003, 10). Consequently, criminologists interested in Jamaica’s or Caribbean region crimes should come up with local solutions with practical knowledge so as to provide workable policy solutions. All in all, resolving violent crime in Jamaica has a long way to go.

So, what has changed?

Jamaica is making steps forward to reform its police force and has an economic blueprint referred to as Vision 2030 Jamaica, which should steer the country to become “the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business”. However, is this possible amid violent crimes and ineffective public policies?

Violent crimes have continued to increase with negligible (downwards) fluctuations on a monthly basis. In April 2012, the number of murder cases have risen by 12 percent compared to the same period in 2011. In addition, the numbers of violence against women (murder) have increased by 36.7 percent within the first three months of the year 2012 according to the police report (Caribbean360 2012).

In the year 2008, the number of violent crimes rose by 12 percent (The Jamaica Police Watchdog 2008). Out of this figure, 82 percent of cases involved the use of guns. Still, in 2008, there were 11 females and six children killed in the month of September. In the same period of the previous year, there were nine females and four children killed. The number of property crimes rose from 99 in 2007, September to 237 in 2008, September. Rape cases increased by 100 percent in the year 2008. In the year 2007, September, there were 64 reported rape cases compared to 237 in the year 2008, September. The police reported that all major crimes rates went up.

We can observe that there has been no significant shift in public policy to fight violent crimes in Jamaica. This is after 50 years of independence as the rates of serious crimes are on the increase. However, Jamaica has embarked on long-awaited policy changes in fighting violent crime. This is an initiative of 2007 attempt to reform the police force.

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The Five-year Plan to fight crime

In February 2012, Jamaica announced its five-year plan to combat violent crime after experiencing escalating crime rates since independence. This is a National Security Policy that aims at reducing the “current murder rates of three percent per day to less than one percent per day over the next five years” (National Security Ministry 2012).  This comes as the rate of violent crime is on the rise. However, Jamaica insists that this plan shall reduce the crime rate to an acceptable international level by the year 2017. This means Jamaica must reduce the murder rate from “41 per 100000 in 2011 to 12 per 100000” (National Security Ministry 2012). This implies that the country shall only have one murder per day.

Jamaica developed a National Security Policy in the year 2007. However, it did not implement it due to a change of leadership from the People’s National Party to the Jamaica Labour Party. This demonstrates a lack of political will to facilitate the implementation of public policy to combat violent crime. The country developed a new policy because of the current crime condition. This means the National Security Policy of 2007 is no longer relevant in fighting sophisticated crime in Jamaica.

This policy focuses on pursuing the proceeds of crime. At the same time, it will also include social interventions in crime-prone communities. The new policy addresses issues of garrison communities and their gangs. Consequently, the policy aims at eliminating gangs as police take control of garrison communities.

Confrontation and dismantling garrison communities are the only solutions that can prevent the return of such gangs. The plan involves confronting hardcore gang members. Socially, it strives to avert the possibilities of gang recruitment and save those at the periphery of recruitment. The police force aims at deploying police officers to communities and supports this with the anti-gang media campaigns.

Jamaica security police also include using Community Safety Corp Programme. This program focuses on youths who are at risk of joining gangs and enlist them into a social program that aims at re-socializing them into the community (cadet-type program). In addition, the policy approach aims at increasing the outreach of the Citizens Security and Justice Programme (CSJP). This program will cover 55 communities from the current 39 in communities prone to violent crime like St. Catherine.

The changes in Jamaica’s society must work in tandem with JCF as well as other initiatives by both the police and communities to fight violent crime. These must include community policing efforts, social, and community crime prevention approaches such as CSJP, and others must work in crime-prone areas of Kingston.

Public Security Reforms

Most people in the inner cities of Jamaica live in constant fear of criminal attacks and violence. Among the people (1,835) shot in 2008, police shot 224. These people in inner cities live among criminal gangs where police also apply violent policing approaches to dismantle the activities of such gangs.

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Jamaica has realized the need to reduce violent crime. Thus, the country needs a police force that is professional, accountable, transparent, and responsive. Jamaica initiated a process for an Independent Commission of Investigation to investigate claims of police killings and propose methods of ending police impunity the JCF enjoys. Jamaica has finally begun the formulation of policy to curb violent crime. These are long overdue reforms that the country has lacked for years. The police reform of 2007 failed implementation due to a lack of political will and commitment. However, there is a need for urgency as the current government did not implement the previous policy. This forced the JCF to formulation new policies for 2012. At the same time, an immediate implementation will ensure that citizens notice the difference.

Jamaica has never had comprehensive reforms in its public security. Consequently, the country has challenges dealing with violent crimes in inner cities. Violent crimes in the inner cities of Jamaica have presented challenges to both policymakers and human rights activists. The UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights in 2001 expressed its concern regarding violent crimes in Jamaica, which are widespread and happen with impunity. It urged Jamaica to apply its laws, and any means it has to bring violence to an end.

The problem in Jamaica is a lack of long-term, sustainable, and effective public security and safety policy. Jamaica still has its mixed approach to crime issues. The country makes some announcements through the media to counteract public rage at the height of violent crimes. The country has a tendency of not implementing such strategies or plans, forgetting them completely, or applying poor management to such plans. In addition, such media announcements are not sustainable. We are aware of what happened to the country’s National Security Policy of 2007. Jamaica never implemented this policy. It is crucial to note that, in the policy of 2007, Jamaica has recognized its security plight as “the rule of law is at risk of collapsing” and noted that there was a “lack of structured and coordinated intelligence by the various law enforcement arms of the State that leaves an unacceptable gap in the defense of law and order” (Amnesty International 2008). In February of 2012, Jamaica announced its plan to introduce another National Security Policy as the sophisticated nature of crime in Jamaica had overtaken the National Security Policy of 2007. We are yet to see how it will implement it to achieve its aim of reducing violent crime to accepted standards by 2017. According to the Amnesty International report of 2010 on Jamaica, police killings reduced by 32 percent in reference to the same period the previous year. However, most cases of police killings point to extrajudicial killings by the police.

Jamaica rarely investigates cases of extrajudicial killings by its officers. Occasionally, the force conducts such investigations. However, such reports remain with the department responsible. Efforts to have independent commissions of inquiry receive little favor from the government.

However, in 2010, the government set up the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) to conduct investigations on alleged abuses by police officers. The INDECOM met resistance with some questioning its power to charge any officer. This means Jamaica must clarify and enhance the power of INDECOM to make it effective and useful in the protection of human rights and the reformation of the police force. Thus, INDECOM is another ineffective and weak approach to reform public safety and security issues.

Jamaica has 124 recommendations on reforming the JCF as proposed by the panel of experts working on security reforms in 2008. According to the Amnesty International report of 2012, Jamaica has implemented 53 recommendations while 65 are at advanced stages of implementation.

Violence against women

As we have noted above, violence against women in Jamaica is on the rise. This does not mean the country lacks the policy to curtail this trend. The problem lies in the poor enforcement of such laws. In 1989, the JCF created a department called the Centre for Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA). CISOCA is in all major police stations of the country. The tasks of this department entail counseling, supporting, medical examination schedule, and protecting evidence from casualties and alleged offenders. However, in a report by Al, Jamaica trained police officers in CISOCA departments do not involve themselves in the criminal investigation of violence against women. Instead, they leave such tasks to regular police who lack expertise in such areas. On the contrary, CISOCA claims that it responds immediately and speedily to violence against women, but there are no documents to prove such claims. This department also does not include up-to-date information on violence against women.

Jamaica is lenient in charging accused persons of violence against women. For instance, cases of rape against intimate people who do not cohabit are under assault. However, when these people stay together, police refer such couples to counselors. Police are also reluctant to investigate cases of rape claims that involve acquaintances. Jamaica police force does not want to be a part of domestic rows. Al’s report puts it that Jamaica police and the judiciary disregard testimonies given by women and girls. Instead, the systems favor testimonies of male offenders.

According to the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, in 2006, it noted that Jamaican women victims were not eligible for legal help. This happens despite the fact that Jamaica has adopted a policy to eradicate gender-based violence and laws such as the Domestic Violence Act 2004 to protect women. This committee observes that Jamaica is yet to address the problem of violence against women. It says that Jamaica has not addressed violence against women “in a holistic and systematic manner and that the country did not enforce measures designed to combat and eradicate all forms of violence against women in practice” (Amnesty International 2008).

The political root of Violence

Political analysts of Jamaica believe that the need for strong, violent, and armed leaders is responsible for persistent political violence in the country. Such leaders would enforce their political agendas in their communities by use of intimidation and violence. This is the origin of garrison communities in Jamaica. According to Mark Figueroa and Amanda Sives, “a garrison, as the name suggests, is a political stronghold, a veritable fortress completely controlled by a party. At one level a garrison community can be described as one in which anyone who seeks to oppose, raise opposition to, or organize against the dominant party would definitely be in danger of suffering serious damage to their possessions or person thus making continued residence in the area extremely difficult if not impossible. Any significant social, political, economic or cultural development within the garrison can only take place with the tacit approval of the leadership (whether local or national) of the dominant party” (Harriott 2003, 65).

To this end, we can note how garrison culture and its influences are responsible for escalating violent crime in Jamaica. Such political violence does not spare the adjacent communities. There are constant confrontations between opposing garrisons as they contend for control of the communities, and communities among them experience violence, as well. Jamaica’s political violence was fierce in the 1980s when several people lost their lives during clashes among rival garrisons. However, in 2007, the level of violence from rival garrisons did not reach the feared level (Amnesty International 2008). However, there were scores of murder and widespread fear among residents.

Criminologists and other scholars interested in violent crimes in Jamaica note that garrison communities are the main contributing factors to increasing violent crime in the country. This implies that it will be difficult to deal with crime and violence without addressing its political roots. Political violence has resulted in other forms of criminal activities associated with garrison communities such as trade in illegal firearms and drugs. Crime in Jamaica has become an entrepreneurial activity. However, to date, there is no major step to address political factors in the escalating violent crime in Jamaica.

Garrison gangs get huge proceeds from controlling government contracts. They also have protection and extortion rackets and other, several illegal activities. Garrison dons enjoy political protection. This insulates them from police and other law enforcement systems. Consequently, such dons can carry out violent crimes against the public with impunity in their communities. According to the Amnesty International report of 2008, “many politicians have benefited from the unrest and displacement that are features of communities with high levels of unemployment, a proliferation of unskilled and virtually unemployable youths and pervasive poverty” (Amnesty International 2008).

Perpetrators of violent crime increasingly use guns in homicide. During the 1990s, the rate of homicide stood at 50 percent. However, the trend has been on the rise. By 2000, it was 61 percent, and in the year 2005, this figure shot up to 75 percent.

The problem lies in the law that should curb trade in illegal arms. Such laws remain weak and irrelevant. In 2005, Jamaica introduced the “Fire Arms Act that came with harsh repercussions for gun misuse and created an independent body to issue licenses” (Amnesty International 2008).

These are a fascinating development in a country dominated by violent crime and fear. However, the state has not effectively addressed the issue of illegal arms. A negligible number of arms used in crimes do have a license. Jamaica gets illegal arms from neighboring states involved in the active drug trade. Firearms act as partial payments for transit of drugs. Police officers have difficulties accessing guns under the control of mafias. However, attempts to seize illegal firearms in 2005 only resulted in the retrieval of 683 guns. Jamaica does not manufacture its own firearms. Thus, such guns originate from other countries. Consequently, controlling access to illegal guns requires the international community’s efforts. In this light, in 2006 at the UN Small Arms convention, Jamaica expressed its concern about trade-in firearms by supporting a “legally binding instrument to control access to small firearms and weapons” (Amnesty International 2008). Jamaica has also favored the need for an international arms trade treaty that seeks to set a general benchmark for import, export, and transfer of arms.

Dismantling Garrison Don and its effects on Violent Crime

In 2011, the JCF adopted a new strategy of fighting violent crime. This strategy is “announcing the names of ‘persons of interests’ who should present themselves to the nearest police station” (Buckley 2011). The police claim that this new strategy is responsible for the decrease in violent crime. The community claims that the police approach of announcing names of persons of interest has effects on crime. According to them, “nobody wants to be a person of interest” (Buckley 2011). This is like a revolution in Jamaica.

The Peace Management Initiative (PMI) of Jamaica claims that the police are targeting garrison leaders and their assets have marked contribution to drop in crimes. The aftermath of this approach has seen most criminals and their dons have gone quiet. These are groups responsible for most violent crimes at the community level.

According to Bernard Headley, a criminologist professor at the University of West Indies, Mona, the police deserve praise, but not most and clearly not all. Headley observes that JCF is doing its work with intelligence, learning how to cooperate and work with communities. Community policing is an approach that JCF has failed to adopt for several decades.

The JCF arrested Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke in June 2010. According to the Jamaica Gleaner, this arrest brought immediate transformation in Kingston. Jamaica Gleaner writes “Since the west Kingston incursion, what we are seeing is an immediate transformation. Nobody wants to be a don anymore; people are conforming to the law” (Buckley 2011). Headley asserts that the police application and use of intelligence were crucial for the arrest. However, Headley disagree with what he termed as “scorched earth” tactics the police used to get Coke. Consequently, he advises that the “hope of redeeming urban crime garrisons lies in crafting well-conceived, well-thought-through weed and seed (or hold and build) projects and objectives” (Buckley 2011). Most Jamaicans believe that a sustained social approach to managing violent crimes that can work other than hard-policing approaches. They derive this conclusion from the consequences of CSJP among other peace initiative programs. The drops in cases of homicide were due to sustained peace-building efforts by community organizations working alongside the force.

According to Headley, sustaining reducing rates of violent crimes needs intelligent policing that has a close link with community support together with justice, fairness, and respect for the rights of the people. This is the only way social programs to fight violent crimes in Jamaica shall be effective. At the same time, the government must also avail adequate resources to social programs that aim at reducing and sustaining downward trends of violent crimes at the community levels.

The pursuit and arrest of Coke show strong links between politicians and gang leaders that control community garrisons. Some media reports link Coke to Prime Minister Bruce Golding that the Premier relied on Coke to deliver him votes in the communities Coke controlled using his gang known as Shower Posse (ukwirednews 2010). The Premier opposed the first indictment of Coke by the US claiming that the evidence had flaws. The Premier only agreed to extradite Coke after both local and international pressure.

This link shows that Jamaica policy changes and initiatives must tackle the roles of politicians in promoting violent crimes, trade-in drugs, and firearms, among other illegal activities. If Jamaica fails to formulate policy changes to address such links, then political violence shall fuel violent crimes, disrupt reforms, and the country’s economic, social, and political development attempts.

Economic and Social impacts and Prognosis for Visions 2030 Jamaica

Alleyne and Boxill’s study indicated that Jamaica’s tourism sector performs well despite increases in violent crime. The state of Jamaica also shares a similar view that Jamaica has the lowest crime rates affecting tourists among the Caribbean countries. This claim may be true due to some reasons. Most Jamaica tourists’ hotels offer all-inclusive services that rarely let tourists venture to an unsafe place. Resorts also advise tourists on possible dangers associated with a deep exploration of the country. Tourists in Jamaica prefer cruise ships that they rarely leave. Cruise ships are responsible for the growing number of tourists on the island.

The reality is that most tourists do not experience violent crimes in Jamaica because they rarely leave beyond tourists’ compounds and other destinations. These areas have a heavy police presence and enhanced security. However, tourists may experience different forms of crimes such as property crime and theft. In rare cases, tourists may also experience violent crimes in Jamaica. The government of Jamaica ignores such theft and property crimes. This implies that such crimes are not part of the government statistics on crime against tourists.

The reality is that violent crimes are spreading to other tourism destinations in the country. As a result, tourists expose themselves to harassment, theft, road-blockages, stray bullets, homophobia (the case of Steve Harvey), rape, and murder. However, murder cases against tourists are low because such violent crimes arise from tribal politics; thus, targeting the natives in Kingston and other areas. However, this does not mean tourists are safe from murder in Jamaica.

According to the World Bank report of 2007, countries usually ignore crucial costs of violent crime such as effects on the investment climate and economic prosperity in their analyses and public discourse. The World Bank indicates that Caribbean countries that experience high rates of violent crimes can realize enhanced economic prosperity if they reduce cases of severe crimes and violence. This is because the effects on economic growth are large (World Bank and UN 2007, 59).

All forms of crimes have a serious economic implication on a country’s growth. Firms in Jamaica do experience crime in terms of extortion and protection, fraud, corruption, forgery, and violent victimization. This report noted that forms of violent crimes in Jamaica prevent investment from both local and foreign investors resulting in retarded growth. Slow growth is the fate that awaits Vision 2030 Jamaica if the country cannot formulate and implement effective and sustainable public safety and security policy. Thus, Jamaica shall never realize the practical meaning of the slogan “the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business”. This is because crimes come with associated costs such as additional security requirements, extra costs of conducting business and leading to diversion of investment resources and opportunities for productivity to other areas. Crimes also result in loss to business through extortion, protection rackets, fraud, looting, and property theft. To some extent, the effects of crimes can also affect employees’ safety, motivation, and productivity. A country that lacks social capital like Jamaica has high costs of doing business.

The UN and World Bank report noted that if Caribbean nations can reduce crimes to manageable levels, then their economic growth rates can improve drastically. The report further indicated that Jamaica can achieve a GDP of 5.4 percent per year if it can reduce its crime rate to match that of Costa Rica (8.1 per 100,000). A growth rate of this nature can ensure that the country achieves its economic development plan. Most businesses operating in Jamaica would not like to expand under an environment of fear and violent attacks. This is because crime discourages possibilities of expansions, new investments, and productivity. This has a long-term effect on entrepreneurship in the country. Businesses also experience additional security costs in Jamaica due to violent crimes. Additional security costs come in terms of extra security personnel, reinforcement, and security installations. There are also potential losses in terms of operation time where many business outlets close before dark.

Most educated workforces leave Jamaica for safe places. This is an indirect cost to the economy. At this rate, the country may not be the place to live and do business if workforces are leaving. Thus, Jamaica must align its development policy with security issues to prevent massive emigration among its educated workforce.

The tourism sector is sensitive to insecurity. Most investors choose areas on natural resources sectors that do not suffer much from real or perceived insecurity like tourism. However, there is a steady growth of the tourism sector in Jamaica. However, the widespread and increasing cases of homicide will affect the tourism sector and tourists activities in Jamaica. As we have noted, tourists are also not safe from various forms of violence in Jamaica.

Tourism accounts for 10 percent of Jamaica’s GDP (World Bank and UN 2007). It is also the second-largest source of foreign exchange after remittances. This is how the tourism sector is crucial to the country’s economic growth. Thus, Jamaica must develop public policy that shall ensure sustainable tourism development in relation to its security problem and economic development agenda.

Therefore, the success of the tourism sector depends on the positive experiences of tourists. The recent trends in crime have direct effects on tourists visiting patterns. This means both the government and tourism professionals, and pundits must develop security measures that can enhance positive experiences among tourists while in Jamaica.

It is the private sector that has formulated and developed security measures for tourists through “all-inclusive” hotels. However, the government of Jamaica has no concrete policy on the tourism sector, except on Vision 2030 Jamaica. The private sector initiative of all-inclusive hotels is the main reason for the development of the tourism industry in Jamaica. The full-service approach reassures visitors of their safety and positive holiday experience. The concept of all-inclusive hotels also reduces full potential or earnings from tourism as they do not facilitate important linkages to other sectors of the economy.

The tourism sector is a key priority in the National Development Plan of Jamaica. The Vision 2030 Jamaica aims at transforming the tourism sector into an “inclusive, world-class, distinctly Jamaican tourism industry that is a major contributor to socioeconomic and cultural development, with a well-educated, highly skilled and motivated workforce at all levels within a safe, secure, and sustainably managed environment” (Vision 2030 Jamaica). According to the Plan, local stakeholders shall increase their participation in the industry, and enhance their skills, and working environment. The plan also aims at using tourism to promote economic investments and linkages with another sector of the economy. This shall also include diversified tourism markets, products, sources, and segments among other plans.

The tourism action plan and the way forward fail to account for security concerns and implementation alongside other determinant success factors. This sector depends on the National Security Ministry and its implementation of security policy, which we have noticed its shortcomings. Consequently, safety and security issues may hamper the country’s tourism plan.

Jamaica has initiated several security reforms in both socioeconomic and political areas. The challenge lies in the approach. There is a major rift between law enforcement and social measures in eradicating violent crimes. Most public safety and security reforms tend to favor law enforcement approaches that aim at dealing with threats from illicit trades in firearms, and drugs originating from other countries. This is why Jamaica requires international cooperation in handling its domestic violent crimes.

The Caribbean nations have noticed security threats to their economic growths and cooperated to undertake measures to deal with security cases. For instance, in 2001, the Caribbean Community noticed connections between drug trades and their effects on local and regional security threats. As a result, the Caribbean countries cooperate on matters of national and regional security to curb drug trafficking (Bowling 2010). On the international front, Jamaica and other Caribbean nations have received financial, technical, and military training from both the US and the UK.

However, serious problems lie in the domestic justice systems. There are low conviction rates of offenders especially gang leaders who enjoy political protection. This implies that unless Jamaica reforms its weak and ineffective criminal justice systems, the activities of law enforcement agencies shall have minimum impacts on the country’s public safety and security (Brathwaite, Wortley and Harriott 2004).  Still, without success in the areas of illicit trade in firearms, drugs, and control of garrison communities, Jamaica shall continue to experience escalating crime, and economic prosperity shall stagnate as costs of living and doing business rise. Jamaica must also address social issues, poverty, and low employment rates that are responsible for the rise of gang membership if it must manage its worsening security situation for economic, social, and political prosperity.

The increasing rates of crimes and violence have also created a backlog of work in the criminal justice system. Jamaica also experiences delays in the processes of delivering justice. The country has not had concrete reforms that can address its out-of-date and inefficient criminal justice system.

Is there hope?

Both local and international organizations keen on security and safety issues have shown their interests in the absence of resource integration, coordination, and prioritization in most public security initiatives. Consequently, such organizations have concluded that security issues are not the priority for the government of Jamaica. Most of these initiatives aim at providing coordination and cooperation with law enforcement agencies. Thus, Jamaica must strengthen and respect the independence of such community initiatives in order to fight violent crimes in inner cities, communities and restore public confidence in the police force. These projects are different in nature and scope, but they have a binding factor that has made them successful. These initiatives involve community participation, cooperation, coordination, and ownership.

According to the Amnesty International report of 2008, the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) has recognizable impacts of security issues since its inception in 2002. PMI consists of members from “civil society organizations and members of the two prominent political parties of the country” (Amnesty International 2008). PMI strives to prevent or avert possibilities of crimes and violence in the Kingston Metropolitan Area, and in the neighboring parish of St Catherine. The success of the PMI is in its complete independence from the government. However, the Ministry of National Security meets some financial needs of PMI. Communities have embraced the role of PMI in averting violence and enhancing peace in the inner-city communities. PMI has volunteered to facilitate its work in the garrison community. It negotiates peace agreements with gangs and stops violence. The community has also noticed the role of PMI in reducing violent crime and promoting peace. Consequently, people have embraced it as a means of building peace, saving lives, and promoting respect for the rights of the people.

There is also Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA). VPA is the World Health Organisation project launched in 2004. It came as a result of the Global Campaign on Violence Prevention. Consequently, the Ministry of Health is responsible for spearheading the campaigns of VPA.

Jamaica also has the Fletchers Land Management Benevolent Society. The organization links the police and the community and brings community organizations together. The society and police station are close to enhancing their coordination efforts. This organization is responsible for maintaining peace in inner-city communities, and it has received several awards for its peace efforts and positive results. It is an example of how community and police enhanced relationships can be a tool in reducing violent crimes and abuse of human rights.

The increasing trends of violent crimes demonstrate that Jamaica is in a crisis of violent crimes from criminals and extrajudicial killings from the police alike. Such crises are sources of challenges to public policymakers, law enforcement agencies, and the public. The police may face challenges dealing with armed criminal gangs of garrison communities. However, the rate of extrajudicial killings undermines the public image of the force. Human rights have accused JCF of systematic execution and gross violation of human rights.

Jamaica has initiated several attempts to improve the image of its police force and formulated several public safety policies. However, there is no political commitment and determination, widespread corruption in Jamaica. Consequently, achieving peace in Jamaica may only be possible through community and law enforcement collaboration.

There are raging debates about security and safety problems in the inner cities of Jamaica. In most cases, human rights activists argue that the JCF has comprised human rights, integrity, and moral standards of their jobs. Consequently, they argue that the JCF lacks transparency and accountability processes. In addition, they also note that government agencies lack concerns about the safety and security of their citizens including human rights. The government has not made the safety and security of its citizens a political priority. As a result, it is only community workers who have strived to ensure that violent crime comes to an end.

The pathetic situation of inner cities and the rise of garrison communities are not natural phenomena. The politics of the powerful is responsible for social exclusion, poverty, and violent crimes that affect garrison communities. These are tools that ensure that politicians capture and retain political power. Thus, formulating public security policy to deal with problems of garrison communities is challenging. However, we must recognize that public safety and security crises have reached optimum and must be handled immediately. Most task forces on Jamaica’s crimes problems have noted a lack of political commitment and leadership. There is general inactivity from leaders.

The government of Jamaica must change its approach to issues of public security and safety policies if it must achieve its development agenda. There is hope that the country has recognized that if Vision 2030 Jamaica is to become a reality, then it cannot ignore the role of security in all areas of political, social, and economic development. Citizens and human rights groups must also advocate and ensure that the government implements its policies. In fact, the development of such policies should be a consultative process with inputs from all stakeholders.

Jamaica can borrow some guidelines from the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and Basic Principles as a starting point for reforming JCF. This shall provide basic approaches to conduct and use of firearms so as to combat widespread extrajudicial killings. Such standards are successful worldwide in countries that adhere to them. This point is necessary due to the “scorched earth” techniques the police used to capture Coke as several people lost their lives in the operation. It will aid the force in situations where to use force, threats, or shoot-to-kill. This is the first approach to redeeming the tainted image of the JCF.

Experts argue that foreigners do not have a deep understanding of violent crimes and their roots in Jamaica. This implies that Jamaica must formulate its own policies with local experts who understand the situation best. At the same time, the government must ensure that it implements its public safety policy. Public policy on the safety and security of citizens, and pending reforms in the JCF remain the determining factors of the success or failure of Jamaica’s National Development Plan.


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Caribbean360. Jamaica’s murder rate up. 2012. Web.

Harriott, Anthony. Understanding Crime in Jamaica: New Challenges for Public Policy. Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 2003.

National Security Ministry. Five-year crime plan for Jamaica. (2012). Web.

The Jamaica Police Watchdog. 3rd Quarter 2008 Jamaica Crime Statistics. 2012. Web.

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