Crime monster must not be allowed to undermine Jamaica's economic progress-Shields

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

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THE spectre of crime looms large over Jamaica and must not be allowed to stymie efforts made to improve the country's economy, says former deputy police commissioner of the Jamaica Constabulary Force ( JCF), Mark Shields.

Shields was the special guest speaker at the 14th Annual CIN Lecture at the Schomburg Center in New York on October 24th, where his subject was “Can the crime monster be tamed?”

“We can tame the monster ,but it cannot be done by the JCF alone. If we don't get the JCF functioning properly to create a trusted and professional organisation, whether or not there are social intervention programmes, improvements in education, job creation and housing, none of that will be enough for us to get to a situation where there is not another 20,000 murders in the next 14 to 15 years,” said Shields.

The former Scotland Yard top cop calculated that since his arrival in Jamaica back in 2005, the murder rate has been around 1,400 a year, which means that since residing in Jamaica some 20,000 people have been murdered, with the emotional impact on their family and friends being unsettling.

Shields pointed out that after his five-year tenure at the JCF he didn't leave to return to London, but stayed in Jamaica, built his security consultancy business, got married to a Jamaican and had a child, so he is totally invested in the country.

“In the last 10 years, successive governments have stuck to comprehensive and ambitious reforms to stabalise the economy.

“ Jamaica is a beautiful place to live. Tourism is booming with the Jamaica Tourist Board reporting that 4.3 million people visited Jamaica in 2017, a 12 per cent increase on 2016's figures. The bauxite industry which was valued at US$672 million in 2016 continues to go from strength to strength.

“Institutional reforms and measures to improve the environment for the private sector is starting to restore confidence in the Jamaican economy. In 2016, the World Bank's Doing Business Report ranked Jamaica among the top 10 most improved economies in the world. So with a GDP growth of just 1.7 per cent, it is expected to grow to 2.1 per cent at the end of 2018. Things are beginning to pick up and all this despite the crime monster.”

Shields declared that the world has an admiration for Jamaica and that its cultural impact has not gone unnoticed

“Jamaica is still a place where I want to live, where I have family and friends. There is optimism, but Jamaicans have become numb to the crime experience. Behind the crime statistics, there is a malevolent, nasty underbelly of life in Jamaica that stifles development and undermines our quality of life and makes law — abiding citizens live in fear of crime.

“For example, in downtown Kingston higglers and market traders block the pedestrian footways. You have to dodge the traffic precariously because there is no room on the footway. Illegal traders hang their wares on the signs of legitimate traders. Then you have crazy drivers on the roads, motorists making illegal turns [and], driving too fast leading to horrific collisions,” said Shields.

Addressing the packed audience of 500, he said that all too often anti social behaviour is ingrained in Jamaican culture, which unduly impacts people's lives and hinders economic development.

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