Gun still weapon of choice in violent crimes across Jamaica

Monday, December 17, 2018

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THE gun is still the weapon of choice for co mitting violent crimes in Jamaica, with the deadly weapon being used in 78.9 per cent of murders and 67.8 per cent of robberies in 2018. However, this is a decrease from its use in 81.7 per cent of murders and 67.6 per cent of robberies in 2017, and 81.3 per cent of murders and 63.8 per cent of robberies in 2016, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is reporting.

Meanwhile, a total 705 weapons have been seized by the police so far for 2018, down from 839 in 2017. These included rifles, shotguns, home-made firearms, submachine guns, pistols, and revolvers. Pistols represented the largest number of weapons seized, with 493 seized in 2018, compared to 544 in 2017.

A total 10,839 rounds of ammunition were seized, also down from 21,593 rounds seized for the same period in 2017.

Seventy-four guns were also reported stolen in 2018, as well as 1,398 rounds of ammunition, compared to 80 and 2,314 respectively for 2017. Pistols also represented the most guns stolen — 63, compared to 64 last year.

The JCF's Periodic Crime Statistics Review for the period January 1 to December 15, 2018, and comparative years 2014-2017, published yesterday, also showed that the knife was the second-most popular implement of choice for robberies in 2018, and the third most popular — following the category “others” — used in murders this year.

The statistics also show a steep decline in the number of murders reported so far for the month of December 2018, when compared to last year, with the closest similar numbers only having been seen in December 2014, when 42 murders were reported that month.

So far, in December, for the period under review, there have been 38 murders reported, compared to 68 in 2017 and 71 in 2016. The decline in murder numbers has been noted since May this year.

Problem divisions with the highest reported murders and shootings were St Andrew South, which leads the year so far for murders, with 146 reported in total; followed by Westmoreland with 134; and Clarendon with 130. Westmoreland also led the pack for shootings with 151 reported, followed by St Andrew South with 134, and St James with 102. Notably, St Andrew South has taken over from St James, which in 2017 led the tally with 322 murders and 242 shootings.

The division with the lowest reports of incidents across both categories is Portland, with 14 reported murders and five shootings so far this year.

The statistics also show that of the total 3,123 serious and violent crimes reported in 2018, only 1,602 cases of the total have been cleared up. This crime category, defined by the police as “serious and sometimes coupled with acts of violence”, includes murders, shooting, rape, and aggravated assault.

Aggravated assault currently refers to the crime of felonious wounding, assault occasioning grievous bodily harm, and wounding with intent that does not involve a gun. For last year there were 3,878 reported cases in this category, with 1,742 of those cleared up.

The police statistics also show a reduction in the acquisitory crimes of robbery and break-ins for this year compared to the last two years. There were 1,038 reported cases of robbery reported in 2018, compared to 1,221 in 2017 and 1,377 in 2016. For break-ins, the figures were 1,110, compared to 1,164 in 2017 and 1,264 in 2016. But for larceny, the numbers have increased slightly to 146 reported compared to 137 in 2017; but it's down from the 184 reported in 2016. In total for these three crimes there were 2,294 reported cases in 2018 for the period under review, with 741 cases cleared up. This compares to a total 2,522 total reports in 2017, with 841 cleared up, and 2,825 reported in 2016, with 818 cases cleared up.

And fewer motor vehicles and animals have also been stolen this year, compared to the last three years, with a total 432 cars, trucks, buses and bikes stolen in 2018 compared to 602 in 2017; and a total 76 cases of praedial larceny reported in 2018 compared to 111 in 2017.

Earlier this month Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson told a Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange forum that the first problem he had to tackle as commissioner was the murder rate.

“When you come to this job your first call or your first responsibility is to ensure that the murder rate is trending in the right direction, which is downwards. We should be having less and less violent crimes in Jamaica; so that obviously is the first thing that we do,” he said then.

He also said that another issue of import was dealing with the guns and gangs in a manner that is sustainable.

Anderson said that focus was also being placed on the investigative capacity of the police as it relates to gangs, guns, murders, and proceeds of crimes. As such, the police hierarchy has been working on putting together a task force that would focus on this area.

“We had to ensure that though the quality of the investigations is going up, we had to look at how we use existing legislation, like [the] anti-gang legislation, to deal with not just individuals committing major crimes, but all of the support systems around those individuals, and all those people on the periphery whose efforts, although their efforts do not constitute a major crime, contribute significantly to the continuance of major crime,” the commissioner said.

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