THERE has been an increase in the number of homicides committed across the island between January and the ending of July, as opposed to the corresponding period last year, despite an intensified drive by the security forces to stem the nation's runaway murder rate.
According to crime figures released by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) on Monday, there were 643 reported cases of murder, which is 13 more than the 630 cases reported between January and the ending of July 2011.
The bloodiest months on record for 2012, according to the police statistics, are May, which registered 120 murders; January with 108; February, which saw 96; and June, 88. These are followed by July, which saw 87 murders; March with 73; and April, 71.
A total of 1,133 murders were reported last year.
Gang-related violence continued to drive the homicide rate, although there was a decline in last month's murder figures linked to gang activities, compared to July last year.
According to the JCF, 51.7 per cent, or 45, of the 87 murders committed last month were identified as gang-related. Last year July, 52 of the 104 murders committed for the month were attributed to gang activities.
The figures underscored the need for the police to intensify their anti-gang drive that was launched early last year with some success, a sentiment expressed by Glenmore Hinds, the deputy commissioner of police in charge of operations, in a release that accompanied the crime statistics.
"I am giving the assurance that the JCF and its partners will do everything within legal limitations to impact further on the gangs, their movement, their space, so as to make the country safer," said Hinds.
Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said at a Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange last year that the JCF had, through its anti-gang strategy implemented that year, managed to dismantle half of the 57 criminal enterprises targeted.
Monday's statistics showed that 29 of the 87 murders for the month of July were criminal-related but not gang-related. July 2011 ended with 35 such murders, according to the statistics. Domestic-related murders stood at six at the end of last month. Mob killing accounted for one murder, while six of the 87 murders were not categorised.
"Note must be taken of the declines in murders registered in St Catherine North and South. These divisions which include several problematic areas registered an overall reduction of 20 murders in July," said Hinds.
The murders statistics were part of a monthly report by the police, who are reporting a decline in six of seven major crimes across the island for the month of July, the exception being larceny, which stood at 44, an increase of three over the comparative month of last year.
There have been declines in rapes, carnal abuse, break-ins and shootings, which rounded out at 95, as opposed to 128 in July of last year.
National Security Minister Peter Bunting praised the security forces for their work in tackling crime and appealed to the citizenry to continue providing information about criminal activity within their communities. The minister expressed optimism that crime will continue to trend downward for the rest of the year.
Meanwhile, the statistics showed a reduction in the number of police fatal shootings. There were 20 fatal shootings for the month compared with 27 last year.
"We are going in the right direction with respect to fatal shootings. It is not where we want it to be, but with the continued promulgation of our Use of Force Policy within the organisation further reductions will take place," Hinds said.