The murder rate in Jamaica is showing signs of a downward trend from the 3.1 per day to two per day, reflecting a 30 per cent reduction since the start of the year.
This was disclosed by Minister of National Security, Hon. Peter Bunting, when he addressed business leaders and other private sector interest groups, during a ‘Meet the Ministers Power Breakfast’ session, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Thursday April 26.
The Minister said although it is early in the year, the recent crime fighting measures and strategies are bearing fruit.
“Hopefully, we are seeing the beginning of a trend and there are certain mechanisms in place to ensure that we don’t lose these gains that we have been picking up. In fact, all major crimes have been trending down over the past few months...but this is not enough,” the Minister informed.
Reflecting on his early days as Minister of National Security, Mr. Bunting said: “One of the first things that struck me in settling into the Ministry was how tolerant as a society we had become of our extraordinarily high levels of violent crime."
He further observed that studies, including the World Bank reports as well as the findings of local experts, indicate that crime is the number one obstacle to growth and development and has been so for over the past four decades.
The Minister opined that without the “extraordinary high levels of crime, our economy and our earnings per capita would be somewhere between three times and 10 times its current levels, and that doesn’t even take into account the grief, the misery, the pain and suffering caused to the families of the victims."
It was against this background that among his first tasks was “to set what some people describe as an audacious goal."
“I said that within this term of office, we must reduce our crime, in particular, our murder rate to first world levels and that we must be tolerant of nothing less. We have started at a time when we were having over 100 murders per month. At the time when we set this goal, people were saying that we must be crazy,” the Minister said.
He pointed out that despite the apprehension, the Ministry immediately engaged in a number of initiatives, including a communication programme which has been running for the past several weeks. There was also the promulgation of a National Security Policy, which would provide the strategic framework for the next five years.
Lamenting the defects in the judicial system, which handicap the speedy dispensation of justice, the Minister said that the judicial system is a critical part of dealing with law enforcement and achieving success in fighting crime.
He observed that the “culture of adjournment that we have in our justice system is costing this country an enormous amount of money.”
“When an important case is postponed, a case for which we have witnesses in the international witness protection programme and we have expert witnesses that have to fly in, it literally cost us millions of dollars to have everybody in place. The taxpayers in this country deserve more, not only from a justice point of view, but from a value point of view,” Mr. Bunting said.
The Minister also pointed to similar examples of inordinate delays in the civil court. He added that the bureaucracy is also replete with similar examples and argued that the country is not going to make the type of progress that is needed, “unless we make a paradigm shift in our approach to fighting crime and our approach to governance."
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter