BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
HOPEWELL, Hanover — Opposition Leader Andrew Holness has blasted the Government on its handling of crime, arguing that Jamaicans are now fearful that the country will return to the runaway crime rate of the 1990s.
"When you listen to the radio and you hear of all the crimes committed in your country, many people get worried. We are going back to the days of the 1990s when crime was out of control," Holness told a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Area Council 4 meeting in Hopewell on Sunday.
"Many mothers are now worried that their daughters are no longer safe in this country and businessmen are worried that they can't do business in the country without incurring very high security costs," he said.
He argued that the Government has lost the momentum in fighting crime, pointing out that two years ago under the JLP administration criminals were on the run and crime was down.
He said that at that time the murder rate was 2.5 per day and gang leaders went into hiding.
"But this is not the case now. Gangs are reassembling; the criminal networks are making their connections once again and before you know it, there will be all over the island again," he told the gathering.
The Opposition leader was speaking against the background of a number of heinous crimes — including the robbery and rape of five females in St James and the murder of retired Superintendent of Police Anthony 'Tony' Hewitt — committed in the island over the past few weeks.
Holness argued that the Government appeared not to be in control of the 'runaway' crime rate and warned that if the economic condition was not addressed, the situation could worsen.
"Much of the crime is driven because the economic condition creates a certain desperation in the people of this country. When people don't have money to send their children to school, when people don't have money for decent housing, when people don't have more for food ... then they resort to crime to survive," he said.
"If we are going to deal with crime, then we will have to deal with the economy and I don't see this government making any progress at all in dealing with the economy of this country so that we can make some serious impact on that variable of crime, which is the economic conditions of the society," Holness said.
Crime, he added, was also driven by the social context in which citizens live, arguing that the Government was not making any effort to ensure that there was not so many "idle hands".
The last JLP Administration, he said, had put in place measures to address the social factors that would impact on crime.
"We emphasised literacy, we put in place a programme that improved literacy in this country; we introduced the no-tuition policy; we introduced the career advancement programme ... we did some very great things as a Government, to improve the social conditions that would minimise crime," he said.