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Extortion on the rise, says JLP

Wednesday, January 15, 2014    

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THE Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) yesterday urged the police to move urgently to deal with a rise in criminal extortion, which the party said has been threaten-ing the survival of businesses.

The party's spokesman on national security, Derrick Smith, said that businesses across the island, especially small enterprises, including Chinese wholesale and retail operations, were being affected by criminals who demand money and issue threats to business operators if demands are not met.

Smith, in a release, called on the police to give some attention to the extortion racket and urged them to introduce new strategies to control the crime, which is one of the ways gangs earn money to fund their illegal activities.

According to Smith, although the main area of activity is downtown Kingston, extortion has been rampant islandwide, noting that the activity could force the closure of small businesses as well as discourage prospective investors.

"This would be a serious setback for the economy, especially in a climate in which the Government has been content to focus on austerity, and leave growth entirely to the private sector. I am calling on the police to immediately put in place the strategies necessary to thwart the growth of this scourge, which had been such a serious threat to investments in the past, and which is re-emerging at a most inopportune time," Smith said.

In the meantime, the Opposition spokesman said the re-emergence of extortion on a wide scale in Jamaica was not only of criminal and social concern but also a serious economic issue as the country seeks to promote investments, employment and growth.

Recent reports in the media have suggested a spike in extortion of investors by gangs, ranging from youths demanding payment for parking in busy areas to gunmen demanding huge sums from business people on a regular basis.

The Jamaica Observer reported in July that the local Chinese community was "reeling under pressures" from both criminals and rogue cops fleecing them of "millions of dollars".

Following a spike in extortion, and few prosecutions in 2005, Parliament amended the Larceny Act, giving added force to legislative provisions targeting extortion practices in Jamaica. This followed consultations between the Government and the Opposition. However, the practice has continued.

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