HomeNewsAnalysisFighting Phone Scams, Violence in Jamaica
ANALYSIS

Fighting Phone Scams, Violence in Jamaica

CARIBBEAN / 23 JUN 2015 BY PABLO BACHELET EN

"The biggest headache is getting the men to walk away from certain things," says Adenike Stephenson, when asked what was the most difficult part of her job as regional coordinator for Jamaica's Citizen Security and Justice Program.

Stephenson named two big challenges: stopping kids from smoking marijuana first thing in the morning, which makes them lethargic for the remainder of the day.

And the second is a bit of a surprise: "Scamming."

I'll get back to scamming in a bit, but first, here's an explanation why I was in a vehicle traveling along the winding roads in the hills around Montego Bay, with Stephenson and her colleague, Desmond Stewart.

This article originally appeared in the blog Sin Miedos, managed by the Inter-American Development Bank, and was edited, and reprinted with permission. See original article here.

The International Development Bank's (IDB) Institutional Capacity of the State Division held its annual "knowledge week" in Montego Bay during May 12-15. Around 65 IDB staff and consultants, armed with enthusiasm, books, sports and gardening equipment, visited several locations that were benefiting from the Citizen Security and Justice Program (CSJP), funded by the IDB and the governments of Jamaica, the UK and Canada. Some staff members and consultants painted school rooms or tutored at-risk kids. Others played a "Jamaica vs Argentina" soccer match in the sweltering heat (Jamaica won 3-2). And I was getting a quick education of what a citizen security program looks like from the ground up.

A few years ago, Stephenson explained, drug gangs battled for turf. Today, young people fight over phone leads. This brings us to scamming.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Jamaica

With a good list of phone numbers, a local youth can make over $1,000  in a couple of days by calling gullible, mostly senior citizens in the United States about collecting lottery winnings or owing back taxes. It is the Jamaican version of the Nigerian prince inheritance scam.

A good list, which is sometimes smuggled out of local call centers, means lots of money. A bad one produces many calls that get hung up or go to voice mail. Young men will fight and kill over the spoils of a good list. And the Montego Bay area has become a hotbed for scammers.

Working with youths to lure them away from a life of marijuana and scamming is just one facet of CSJP. We visit a local school, where kids that fail an elementary school graduation test are put in the hands of Rohan Williams, a remedial teacher. He says he has to use creative techniques to engage these kids to read, such as a recipe to cook Jamaican dumplings; or using coins to reflect costs and basic arithmetic.

At the Farm Heights Community Center, Orville Simmonds, the CSJP Senior Coordinator, is explaining how the program trains parents and youths to develop better skills [...] At the back of the room is a stark reflection of just how difficult it can be to contain violence in the surrounding neighborhoods. Half a dozen soldiers with big guns and flak jackets are getting ready to go out on patrol. They have cots in the community center because their barracks are far away. This is not the community policing tactics that most experts espouse, but Simmonds explains residents trust soldiers more than the police and their presence helps the community feel safer. They can't make arrests so a constabulary officer goes out with them.

15-06-21-jamaica-communitycenter

The Farm Heights Community Center in Montego Bay, Jamaica

Later, Simmonds briefs us on the CSJP. Now in its third phase, CSJP is one of the IDB's earliest and longest-running multi-faceted violence prevention programs, and results are encouraging. Between 2009 and 2013, murders declined 43 percent in communities benefiting from CSJP, against 35 percent in those that did not. CSJP also made people feel safer, with 44 percent saying crime had dropped, versus 27 percent in non-CSJP communities.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of What Works

Even so, crime and violence remain huge problems, absorbing 12 percent of Jamaica's annual healthcare budget. One in four Jamaicans reported being victims of a crime in 2012 to 2013. Communities have a high tolerance for violence and lack economic opportunities and other channels to resolve disputes, Simmonds says.

Going forward, the idea is to focus on especially at-risk youths, such as those in prisons, or those who have been expelled from schools [...] Adenike Stephenson and Desmond Stewart are helping make this happen on the ground. Stephenson says there are many success stories that make a difference, but challenges remain, including a stagnant economy that provides few opportunities.

"We reach a lot of young men, we give them the skills they need but there are no jobs," she says. "So they are going to get back into what they were doing before."

And for too many, that involves scamming.

This article originally appeared in the blog Sin Miedos, managed by the Inter-American Development Bank, and was edited and reprinted with permission. See original article here.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CARIBBEAN / 8 SEP 2014

A former counterintelligence agent accused high-ranking security officials in Cuba of trafficking drugs, an assertion that suggests deep government complicity…

ELITES AND CRIME / 21 APR 2014

Since taking over in 2010, Guatemala's Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz has waged a revolution from inside one of…

CHILE / 23 FEB 2015

Can Latin America see greater success in reducing urban crime and violence by emphasizing data collection and analysis? InSight Crime…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.