According to police statistics, Jamaica murders rates are at their lowest point in eight years. This is despite the general elections held last December, which usually provoke a wave of political violence among urban street gangs.
Police registered 1,124 homicides in 2011, the lowest level seen since 2003, reports the Jamaica Gleaner.
This still gives Jamaica one of the highest homicide rates in the Carribbean, with around 41 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, according to 2010 population data, down from 52 the previous year.
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One question is how much the September 2010 siege against drug trafficker Christopher “Dudus” Coke may have contributed to this dip. The violent crackdown, which left over 70 people dead, dislodged one of Jamaica’s most powerful crime barons from his stronghold in Tivoli Gardens, a neighborhood in west Kingston.
The Jamaica Labour Party may use these homicide statistics to argue that removing Coke caused a drop in crime rates. Labour was ousted from power in the December 2011 elections, which was arguably an indication of the lingering public anger over how the Coke siege was handled. The party, now largely out of favor with voters, could try to spin these dropping homicide rates in their favor.
The dip in murders is also surprising considering that election years in Jamaica typically inspire political fights between neighborhood gangs, who pledge loyalty to a political party in exchange for favors. During campaign season, gangs responsible for protecting a party’s constituency in a given community usually seek to intimidate other communities loyal to the rival party. This political fighting can feed the violent turf wars over the drug trade, responsible for much of Jamaica’s violence. Dudus’ group in Tivoli Gardens, closely linked to the Labour Party, is the most well known of these political gangs.
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