ASSAULT ON CRIME
PRIME Minister Andrew Holness is to put before the Cabinet, at its next meeting, a set of initial proposals and recommendations towards an institutional architecture to deal with crime and violence.
“The objective is to create a comprehensive, all-of-society enterprise to engineer a social and cultural transformation of the Jamaican society and culture away from crime and violence. We are seeking to bring about a cultural revolution in Jamaica. I am confident we can make Jamaica a kinder, gentler, fairer, prosperous, and peaceful society,” Holness told the Jamaica Observer.
“This year the Government will increase its focus on tackling violence as a public health concern. The social normalisation and increasing propensity to use violence requires a broader response beyond law [enforcement].
“It requires focus beyond the symptoms which manifest as crime and violence, to a far deeper analysis of the social, cultural, and historical factors that drive aggression, hate, lack of respect for authority, low socio-emotional regulation, antisocial behaviours, and a lack of value for the inviolability of the person and the sanctity of life,” declared Holness.
He added: “An important part of the of the response to crime and violence, in addition to the more policing and stronger laws approach, must be the engagement of critical social, emotional, and psychological services and support for the victims, perpetrators, loved ones (those emotionally connected to the victim and the perpetrator), and the witnesses (those who were not directly the target of the violence but who observed it, often times children).”
The prime minister underscored that in 2023 Jamaica recorded its lowest level of crime in more than 22 years, down by 10.7 per cent when compared to 2022, with murders down 7.8 per cent; shootings down approximately six per cent; and rape, robbery, and break-ins down between 12 and 17 per cent.
But Holness accepted that despite the decline in the numbers some Jamaicans say that the levels crime and violence feel distinctly high.
“This paradox is not inexplicable. The gruesome nature of violent crimes is immediately displayed before us in graphic details for our unfiltered consumption in the age of social media. It is not unreasonable to assume this could influence perceptions.
“However, of greater concern is that as overall major crimes decline, murders and shootings are declining at slower rates and therefore making up an increasing portion of overall crimes. In 2016 murders were 23 per cent of all crimes, now it accounts for 31 per cent of all crimes though murder itself declined this year,” Holness told the Observer as he reiterated his concern about the increase in domestic violence while vowing to continue to go after the gangsters who have long fuelled Jamaica’s murder rate.
“Gang-related murders are trending down from 72 per cent of all murders in 2021 to now [be at] 67 per cent. This trend will likely continue as we intensify our efforts against the gangs.
“There may be a sense in some quarters of our country that the gangs are [a] street-level problem. While there are some low-level criminal organisations, there are several sophisticated operations whose business is to organise violence in pursuit of criminal enterprise. They pose a threat, not only to citizens in communities but to the security of the State as well when they compromise our financial and banking systems, our customs and border, and our law enforcement, and approvals and permitting systems.
“We will not relent in going after all the gangs in Jamaica — and more resources will be placed at the disposal of the police and justice system to address the threat,” said Holness as he noted that murders related to interpersonal conflict have increased from 17 per cent in 2021 to 20 per cent in 2023.
In commending the men and women of the security forces for the great effort they continue to make in keeping our country safe Holness said government policies — through legislation, budgetary allocations, strategic programmes and intervention, and tactical operations — are having a positive impact overall.
“In 2024 the Government will continue to review our legislative framework to ensure that the system of penalties match the severity and prevalence of the crimes, as well as increase the deterrent effect. No doubt a significant portion of our crime is spontaneous, however by the nature of major crimes there would be some deliberate and premediated intention for which the criminal mind must consider the consequences of their action beforehand.
“Stronger laws and penalties, coupled with improved policing through intelligence, investigations, and prosecution, will change the risk/reward environment for criminals in Jamaica,” stated Holness.