RU­RAL CRIME DRIFT Mur­der spike driven by gang mi­gra­tion, de­cline of sugar

Jamaica Gleaner - - SOMETHING EXTRA - An­dré Poyser Staff Re­porter

WHEN HE took the podium at the Pri­vate Sec­tor Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Ja­maica (PSOJ) Pres­i­dent’s Fo­rum, held on Tues­day, Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice Dr Carl Wil­liams sought to pro­vide an­swers to the elu­sive ques­tion of what is driv­ing the spike in mur­ders, par­tic­u­larly in the west­ern end of the is­land.

Ac­cord­ing to Wil­liams, the two per cent in­crease in the mur­der fig­ures since the start of the year can be at­trib­uted to a shift of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties from ur­ban ar­eas to ru­ral ar­eas.

Point­ing to the lat­est crime statis­tics that now rank St James, Claren­don, Westmoreland, and St Cather­ine North as the most mur­der­ous di­vi­sions, the po­lice chief said that much of the crime is con­cen­trated in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties that were pre­vi­ously un­marred by the scourge of vi­o­lence.

UR­BAN CRIME

“What we have seen in the last decade, or so, is vi­o­lence shift­ing from the ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties of Kingston and St Andrew to the ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, so there is a shift in the mur­ders from ur­ban to ru­ral,” he told PSOJ mem­bers.

Ac­cord­ing to Wil­liams, the Cor­po­rate Area has ex­pe­ri­enced a dra­matic change in its crime pro­file as there is no longer any fear as­so­ci­ated with the cap­i­tal A po­lice man wipes sweat from his face as he, among a group of oth­ers, keeps a close watch on ac­tiv­i­ties in the com­mu­nity of Glen­de­von, Mon­tego Bay, St James. Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Carl Wil­liams

city. “Peo­ple used to be afraid to come to Kingston, but now it is the other way around. Peo­ple want to stay in Kingston be­cause the streets of Kingston are much safer than the streets of Mon­tego Bay, May Pen, and Sa­vanna-la-Mar,” he said.

In an­swer­ing the ques­tion of why mur­ders have ex­pe­ri­enced a ru­ral drift, the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force (JCF) head

re­vealed that the 300 known crim­i­nal gangs op­er­at­ing in the is­land are much more dis­persed.

“They fight over turf. They have con­flicts within the gang and against other gangs. They have con­flicts over per­sonal dis­putes; the spoils de­rived from extortion, rob­bery, and lot­tery scam­ming; and some of them get vi­o­lent even just to as­sert their own in­de­pen­dence,” Wil­liams said.

Ac­cord­ing to him, gangs ac­count for 63 per cent of mur­ders in Ja­maica.

The JCF boss also made a cor­re­la­tion be­tween the de­cline of the sugar in­dus­try in ru­ral ar­eas and the rise in ru­ral mur­ders. While jux­ta­pos­ing crime and eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in ru­ral ar­eas, Wil­liams noted that the loss of jobs as­so­ci­ated with the sugar in­dus­try has re­sulted in more idle youth on the streets, which made them more sus­cep­ti­ble to gang-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties.

“What we have seen in St James, in Westmoreland, in Claren­don is the de­cline of sugar. Par­tic­u­larly in Westmoreland and Claren­don, which were once the sugar belt, sugar is on the de­cline and crime is on the rise. There has to be some cor­re­la­tion there. We have also seen where the lot­tery scam has come in to re­place some of that de­creas­ing in­come,” he said.

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