Study reveals link between unemployment and crime

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT Observer staff reporter hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, November 03, 2014

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THE high unemployment rate among the nation's youth has huge implications for crime and violence in Jamaica-- a study by the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Research, Planning and Legal Services Branch ( RPLSB) has revealed.


The 2014 study titled 'Youth Victimisation and Offending in Jamaica: An Analysis of Serious Violent Crimes', which was done by Senior Superintendent Norman Heywood and Deputy Superintendent Michael Lawrence, shows that persons aged 15 to 24 years, account for 19.5 per cent of the total population in Jamaica. Of this percentage, males represent 51 per cent or 268,829 of the 530,393 youth in this age range.


According to the study, 61 per cent of unattached or unemployed youth are between the ages 20 to 24 years and 96 per cent between 17 and 24 years old. The study further disclosed that only 12 per cent of this group was willing or available to work within the next year.


But, alarmingly, the data revealed that 90 per cent of unattached youth outside the labour force had no skills training and approximately 70 per cent had no training or academic qualification and were in need of remedial education.


This, according to the study, has huge implications for crime and violence in Jamaica.


Moreover, the JCF's National Intelligence Bureau gang assessment figures for 2014 reveal that the number of active gangs in Jamaica is distributed among the parishes in a similar pattern to that for the number of unattached youth.


"The assessment shows that Kingston and St Andrew, combined, accounts for 51 per cent of active gangs in the country, followed by St Catherine with 13 per cent, St James, 10 per cent and Clarendon seven per cent. The JCF's crime data show that these five parishes have consistently accounted for upwards of 73 per cent of total murders and shootings in Jamaica over the last decade," Lawrence said, while presenting the findings at the Statistics Symposium last month.


He explained that the 2011 population census indicate that the male youth population is the most pronounced in the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, Clarendon, St James, and Manchester.


"Youth offending for serious crimes has been increasing for the 15 to 19 years age group over the last three years and declined for the 20 to 24 years sub group in 2013 after experiencing an increase in 2012," he disclosed.


Further findings of the study revealed that being a male in the 20 to 24 years age group is a strong demographic risk factor for criminal victimisation and offending.


In relation to unemployment, Lawrence said 60 per cent of the murder victims in 2013 aged between 15 and 24 years, and were either unemployed or unskilled labourers.


Likewise, over the last three years, 60 per cent of murder perpetrators were between 15 to 24 years and were unemployed.


The aim of the study was to uncover policy relevant characteristics of victims and perpetrators of violent crimes in Jamaica, to determine those most at risk of offending or being victimised.



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