Minister of National Security, Hon Peter Bunting, says that over the last few years, Jamaica has made major strides in reducing the flow of drugs into the island.
He noted that in 2001, it was estimated that 21 per cent of cocaine that ended up in the United States (US) market came through the Caribbean, and that in 2012 that was down to five per cent, with Jamaica accounting for only about one per cent.
The Minister was making a presentation in the Jamaica 50 lecture series, under the theme: ‘National Security in Jamaica since Independence’, at the Silver Spring Civic Centre in Silver Spring, Maryland, on February 21.
Mr. Bunting said that a legacy of the many decades of being a major transshipment point was the growth of gangs, and emphasised that had the country not experienced the level of crime in the last four decades, “our economy would be between three and ten times the size it is now.”
The Minister pointed out that as a result of the economic constraint, there has not been sufficient funds to spend on social services and to combat crime.
Mr. Bunting said that one of his goals is to reduce crime to first world levels by 2017, from 40 in 100,000 to 12 in 100,000.
“If this is to be attained, we have to do things radically, we can’t get there incrementally,” he said.
The Minister told the audience that there are plans by the Government to increase the number of police and military personnel by 5,000 over the next four to five years, and to add 500 new motor vehicles in the system over the same period.
The lecture series, which is the brainchild of Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Stephen Vasciannie, was also attended by Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding; Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington; and Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn.
Along with Mr. Bunting, they were in Washington to participate in an Inter-American Dialogue on the lottery scam, and to outline measures being undertaken by Jamaica to address the problem.
Also attending the lecture were Mrs. Lisa Vasciannie; former Jamaican Ambassador to the United States, Richard Bernal and Mrs. Bernal, and Ambassador Curtis Ward and Mrs. Ward.
The event was sponsored by Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), which was represented by General Manager,Earl Jarrett.