HomeNewsBriefHundreds In, Hundreds Out: Jamaica’s Inefficient Response to Violent Crime
BRIEF

Hundreds In, Hundreds Out: Jamaica’s Inefficient Response to Violent Crime

JAMAICA / 19 JUL 2019 BY SANDRINE MCDUFF EN

In just two months, authorities detained 906 people in Jamaica under states of emergency across the country, but this bid to reduce violent crime is unlikely to make any long-term difference.

Data from the Jamaica Constabulary Force shows that under the current states of public emergency in Hanover, St James and Westmoreland, 811 of the 906 detained individuals were released after processing, the Jamaica Gleaner reported. Of this wave of mass arrests, only 17 people were charged for their involvement in homicides or shootings, and just two alleged gang members were prosecuted.

Effective since April 30 in the three Jamaican parishes, the states of emergency grant temporary additional powers to security forces by notably allowing the government to deploy the army, as well as to increase police presence in certain areas. In addition, individuals can be stopped, searched and arrested without a warrant.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Jamaica

The Jamaican government resorting to such measures is not new. A year-long state of emergency expired in St. James in January before being renewed in late April, alongside Westmoreland and Hanover. On July 7, the Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced this was being extended to the region of St. Andrew South.

The use of states of emergency are part of the government’s strategy to reduce the staggering homicides rate in Jamaica. In 2018, 47 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants were reported, with 1,287 murders. This is almost three times higher than the average rate for Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, 70 percent of all murders committed in Jamaica are gang-related, according to Holness.

InSight Crime Analysis

Jamaica’s security crackdown, despite some encouraging short-term results, might prove counterproductive in dealing with crime in the long run. Blanket arrests during states of emergency are symptomatic of other Latin American governments, but have rarely achieved sustainable progress.

Jamaica did see a 21.7 percent drop in the national murder rate in 2018, and St. James witnessed a 70 percent drop in homicides during its year-long state of emergency. But Holness told a press conference that the current security plan might not be sufficient to stop violent crime. "The truth is that the level of crime is above the capacity of law enforcement to [effectively] respond. There have been 11,000 murders in the last eight years, and we do not have enough investigators," said the prime minister.

SEE ALSO: Jamaica’s New Security Plan Off to Inauspicious Beginning

Jamaica's former deputy police commissioner, Mark Shields, agreed that states of emergency and blanket arrests have limitations. "SOEs [states of emergency] will fail if long-term plans are not implemented to improve education, employment and effective enforcement of the law supported by an efficient justice system," he told InSight Crime.

In the meantime, resorting to a state of emergency achieves little more than short-term objectives, such as temporarily containing gangs and reassuring inhabitants by putting uniforms on the street.

High-profile operations involving blanket arrests have been used by several other governments throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Their limited results further point to the inefficiency of using such a strategy.

El Salvador’s recent wave of police confrontations hid a pattern of extrajudicial killings, whereas Argentina’s record-high increase of drug seizures and arrests was criticized for not tackling large-scale drug traffickers.

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

ECUADOR / 2 JAN 2021

The persistent robbery, extortion, assault and even murder of shrimp farm workers by armed gangs in Ecuador has led the…

BELTRAN LEYVA ORG / 18 NOV 2020

Authorities in Mexico will face one of their biggest anti-corruption tests yet after a bombshell deal was brokered with the…

BOLIVIA / 23 SEP 2022

As world leaders met for the United Nations General Assembly, Latin American presidents expressed various concerns about organized crime.

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…