The 2013 calendar year ended with 1197 murders versus 1099 recorded for 2012 or a disappointing increase of 9%. For the first half of 2013, the figures were continuing the downward trend experienced since May 2010. However, in the third quarter, the number of murders spiked to almost four per day. This increase was attributed to a number of factors including:
- Release of certain gang leaders from incarceration
- An increase in the number of murders in the course of robberies
- Increase of drug + firearm trafficking (balloon effect)
There were some positives in the statistics however as every other major category of crime was down. Shooting down by 1%, rape by 16%, and aggravated assault by 14%. Acquisitory crimes were also significantly down.
Using the public health approach to describe our response to the violence epidemic, we are: 1) interrupting the transmission of violence, 2) preventing future spread of violence, and 3) changing group norms towards more socially acceptable behaviors.
As a violence interruption strategy, the JCF launched Operation Resilience, at the beginning of October 2013 and conducted some 346 anti-gang operations, made 361 arrests, and recovered a record number of 201 firearms in the fourth quarter, as a response to the earlier spike.
We began to experience an encouraging moderation in the rate of murders in November 2013. Since mid-December there has been a further reduction in the murder rate to 2.5 murders per day, a 34% decline from the 3.8 per day we experienced during the spike. So crime is not spiraling out of control.
To prevent future spread, the second step in the strategy, we have been building capacity by:
- Providing increased resources to the JCF, with more than 2,100 new recruits added to the Force in 2012 and 2013, and over J$1 billion in vehicle purchases for the same period; which is more than three times the amount spent in the previous two year period.
- We are building the investigative capacity of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA) to take the profit out of crime. Over $1.3billion was detained by MOCA/FID in 2013.
- Significant improvements have been been made in our forensic capability. We have doubled the output of forensic certificates over the last two years and eliminated the backlog of postmortems.
- We have been active in passing critical legislation. Parliament has passed the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) Special Provisions Act, strengthened the POCA and Trafficking in Persons Acts, and will also shortly pass the Anti-Gang Bill. We are awaiting the final draft of the DNA Bill from the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC).
The third and most critical step to combating an epidemic has to do with reshaping the norms of the society, or put another way – reversing the sub-culture of violence that has crippled our society. The recently introduced Unite for Change initiative is the principal vehicle through which our efforts to reshape the cultural norms will be coordinated. With a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approach, Unite for Change will coordinate a national violence prevention movement, galvanizing the support of key Government Ministries, Agencies and Departments, the Private Sector, Community Based Organizations, Faith Based Organizations, NGO’s and all well thinking Jamaicans. The Ministry of Education has been very responsive to the initiative and has already this week announced a preventative initiative in schools to help ameliorate Jamaica’s crime problem.
The National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, slated for January 30, 2014, at the Jamaica Conference Centre, will be the formal launch of the Unite for Change initiative. The forum will create awareness, build social capacity, share best practices, and drive action by Jamaicans from all walks of life to create a safer and gentler society.
Finally, one of the group norms that we must change is the level of police fatal shootings by police officers.
On Wednesday afternoon, Commissioner Terrence Williams briefed me on the Independent Commission of Investigations’ (INDECOM’s) investigation into a number of alleged murders over a period of years in the Clarendon Police Division. I have issued directives to the Commissioner of Police to take immediate steps to address compliance with the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) Use of Force Policy and the INDECOM Act, as well as to institute new measures to improve accountability.
The investigation of these alleged extra-judicial killings are at a sensitive stage, and I am therefore not able to say any more on this specific issue at this time. However, the administration views the issue of extra-judicial killings with the gravest concern and is committed to the police being accountable for their actions and that every use of lethal force must be independently investigated, explained, and justified.
In the interim, I have instructed the Commissioner of Police to complete and promulgate in the JCF’s Force Orders, within the next few weeks, protocols with INDECOM to address the following:
- Ø Arrest Policy
- Ø Incident Scene Preservation and the primacy of INDECOM at such scenes
- Ø Immediate notification of INDECOM
- Ø Ballistic Submissions
- Ø Administrative Reviews
- Ø Independent Officer Accounts and non-collaboration on the Accounts of Incidents
- Ø Submission of Officers Statements
The Ministry of National Security will also be implementing a project to deploy body-worn cameras for select JCF units. This is scheduled to commence roll out in the second half of the year. The purpose of this project is to:
- Improve the collection of evidence of criminal activity in an effort prosecute and reduce such activity;
- Improve the transparency of JCF activities when interacting with the public;
- Encourage JCF officers to act in accordance with the Force’s professional standards, to include the appropriate use of force when applied; and
- Create a record to protect JCF officers from unfair allegations of violations of JCF professional standards.
The Government of Jamaica is committed to reducing the level of crime and violence that has taken a terrible toll on this nation. As part of this commitment, we will be taking all necessary steps to ensure that the JCF becomes one of the most trusted and respected institutions in Jamaica. We continue to support the work of INDECOM and pledge the cooperation of the Ministry of National Security, its Departments, and agencies in its investigations.