Smith says murders still average more than 3 per dayMonday, March 09, 2015
By Balford Henry, Observer Senior Staff Reporter
Opposition spokesman on national security, Derrick Smith, says that despite assurances from the government, murders are still averaging more than three per day.
Smith told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the latest available statistics from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) show that there have been 207 murders between the start of 2015 and Saturday, March 7.
"When you compare this to the 176 murders recorded during the same period of 2014, it shows that there is an 18 per cent spike in murders, despite the assurances being given by the minister of national security," he said.
Smith added that he was also concerned that in a number of the murders, children, especially young girls, and women were the victims, and in some cases even the elderly, and it appears to be even more brutal than in the past.
"This raises the issues of what are the motives behind these murders, and whether the perpetrators are trying to send a message to families of the victims, the police or the society on a whole," Smith added.
He pointed out that he had noted in a response to national security minister Peter Bunting's "song and dance" about the reduction of murder figures at the turn of the year, that while gang related murders had declined, murders attributed o criminals but not designated as gang-related by the police, had spiked and the minister has given no explanation.
"The minister must address this issue now, if we are to get some understanding as to the approach being taken by criminals to circumvent the Anti-Gang Act, and whether this is part of their tactics to confuse the police, while terrorising the public and creating panic in the society," Smith said.
He noted the significant increase in murders in North St Andrew (over 330 per cent); St Thomas (250 per cent); Manchester (over 200 per cent); St Mary (over 150 per cent); and that the volatile St Catherine North, which the minister had blamed as primarily responsible for the January spike, had increased by almost 80 per cent.
Smith and Bunting clashed over recent crime figures, as the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) of the House of Representatives probed the security ministry's 2015/16 estimates last Wednesday.
Bunting suggested that the spike in murders, which started in January, had ended and things were getting back to normal.
"Thankfully, in February, things were back into hand and we ended the month actually below the corresponding months of the previous year and, so far in March, we are also below," the minister told the SFC.
But, Smith responded that the country was still averaging three murders per day, and the situation has now reached the stage where the US State Department has issued an advisory.
A recent travel advisory issued by the US State Department said that:
"The US Embassy in Kingston reminds US citizens visiting and residing in Jamaica of the need for caution and awareness of personal security on the island. According to statistics prepared by Jamaican law enforcement authorities, crime levels have increased across the country in the early months of 2015, with homicides up 18 per cent and robberies up 10 per cent over the previous year's rates.
"The US Embassy has advised members of its community to review personal security plans; to remain aware of local events that may attract unpredictable crowds; and to monitor local media for news that might be relevant to safety issues. American citizens are encouraged similarly to maintain high vigilance levels, take appropriate steps to enhance personal security and follow instructions of local authorities".
The State Department also "strongly recommend "that U.S. citizens, traveling to or residing in Jamaica, enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the US embassy or nearest US consulate to contact them in an emergency.