This March, Jamaica saw its lowest monthly murder rate in more than nine years, pointing to a sustained drop in violence, even though the country still has one of the highest homicide rates in the Caribbean.
According to the Caribbean Journal, National Security Minister Peter Bunting (see picture) said the 69 murders registered last month were the lowest monthly total since February 2003.
Bunting cited the deployment of the country's military in a policing role, a campaign against lottery fraud, and anti-gang media initiatives as some of the factors responsible for the drop. He said that the number, while still unacceptable, was a positive step forward that would help support future security efforts.
InSight Crime Analysis
The encouraging statistics for March follows a broader trend; in 2011, Jamaica saw its lowest annual homicide rate since 2003. This was particularly good news since 2011 was an election year, which usually brings with it increased violence due to political feuds among neighborhood gangs.
Still, Jamaica has a long road ahead. Bunting has said that the island's eventual goal is to register no more 321 murders a year, described by the minister as "First World levels." A murder rate of 69 deaths a month is still a far cry from achieving this. Furthermore, the increase in police patrols that have apparently yielded these security gains has also been linked to an increase in human rights violations, including the killings of civilians in alleged confrontations with the police.
What's more, despite his June 2010 extradition to the United States, drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke reportedly still inspires widespread support in his former areas of influence in Jamaica, indicating that organized crime still enjoys strong ties to the local population. This suggests that while the government may point to dropping murder rates as evidence of improved public security, the real work lies in winning the trust of residents previously ruled by gangs like Dudus'.