Jamaica’s Minister of National Security, Hon. Peter Bunting, has said that while the country’s crime rate is trending down, the high crime over the last 40 years has cost the country dearly, in terms of economic development.
“Conservatively, if we had not had the crime rate that we have had over (the) last four decades, we would have three times the size economy we are at now, and perhaps, as much as 10 times the size economy that we are at now. That would put us on par with a first world country,” Mr. Bunting said.
He was addressing Jamaicans in the UK at a community meeting held recently at the Jamaican High Commission in London.
“Because we have had an above average violent crime rate for at least four decades, the estimates that some of our professors have done is that, cumulatively, it has cost us 60 to 90 per cent of where we would, otherwise, have been in terms of our GDP and the size of our economy,” he stated.
This, the National Security Minister said, is in addition to the pain, grief and suffering of the victims and their families.
Stating that there has been a 30 per cent reduction in the country’s murder rate over the past two to three years, Mr.
Bunting informed that the “big audacious goal” is to bring the murder rate down from the current 42 per 100,000 to 12 per 100,000 by the year 2016. This, he said, would represent an almost 75 per cent reduction and would bring Jamaica on par with what obtains in a first world country.
Minister Bunting noted, however, that in order to achieve the target, the country must address some challenges. These, he said, include reducing Jamaica’s attractiveness as a transhipment point for drugs into North America and Europe. In addition, he said, there needs to be greater respect for law and order in the society.
“We have to challenge those dysfunctional elements of our culture that have developed over time and have made Jamaica a good place for criminals to do business,” he stated.
Minister Bunting cited the impact of the lotto scam, which he said is glamourised by some sections of the popular culture but seriously exploits vulnerable victims, poses a risk to the country’s call centre and tourist industries and is responsible for some 50 per cent of the murders committed in Montego Bay.
The National Security Minister said a number of new initiatives have been introduced to counter the scam, including a new Major Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Unit (MOCA), which is being set up with support from the UK and the United States.
In addition, legislative measures are being undertaken to target the crime kingpins, take the profit out of crime, make it easier to obtain DNA evidence, and to facilitate the use of video-link during court proceedings.
He said emphasis is also being placed on social interventions, which involves going into the most volatile communities and targeting at risk-youths, who are being recruited by criminal gangs, diverting them back into the education system and job training.
Minister Bunting said while the goal is to reduce the overall crime rate, efforts are also being made to address the use of force by the police. He said there have already been positive developments in this area.
By Vivienne Siva,