Since the start of the year, the number of reported murders in Jamaica has hit 100, a rate of five per day as the slaughtering from 2017 has continued into the first three weeks of 2018.
At least 100 murders were recorded up to Saturday, January 20, according to statistics from the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
A breakdown of the data revealed that 13 more people were murdered when compared to the same period in for last year.
The St. Catherine North and Clarendon police divisons each recorded 13 murders while nine were reported in the St. Andrew South.
However, while killings continue seemingly unabated, the JCF is reporting a reduction in other major crimes during the period.
The reported cases of rape are down 60 per cent, aggravated assault is down 51 per cent while break-ins have declined by 50 per cent during the period under review.
The number of reported robberies fell by 16 per cent.
A public state of emergency was declared for St. James on Thursday (January 18), in an attempt to arrest ongoing gang violence, which has so far claimed 11 lives since the start of the year, including one man who was gunned down at a funeral in the parish on Saturday (Jan 20).
“I have been advised by the security forces, in writing, that the level of criminal activity experienced, continued and threatened, is of such a nature and so extensive in scale as to endanger public safety,” Holness said, according to a government news release.
British and Canadian authorities have since warned their nationals visiting Montego Bay to limit their movements following a state of emergency over violence and shootings in the tourist hotspot.
The US State Department has not updated its travel advice since Thursday’s announcement, but has previously warned against travel to some areas of Montego Bay due to crime.
The Prime Minister sought to reassure the public and local businesses as he announced the emergency measures, saying people’s rights would be respected even as the security forces are granted extraordinary powers.
“The declaration of a State of Public Emergency does not mean the suspension of the rule of law. The security forces are expected and have been directed to treat citizens with respect and protect the dignity and safety of all,” he said.
Chief of defense, Major General Rocky Meade, stated that Jamaican armed forces are aiming to target gangs, with “particular focus on those that are responsible for murders, lotto scamming, trafficking of arms and guns, and extortion.”
Jamaica closed 2017 with 1,616 murders, one of the highest homicide figures on record.
St. James in the western section of the island led with 335 murders, followed by Clarendon with 168 and Westmoreland with 147.
“With more than 1,600 homicides in their country last year, and with the numbers for this year already in double digits, the situation is having a debilitating effect on Jamaicans here,” said Dr Robert Clarke, president of the umbrella National Association of Jamaica and Supportive Organisations (NAJASO).
“The situation continued to have a “crippling effect on potential investment opportunities from within the Diaspora, as while many credit the Government for trying to bring the situation under control, these efforts are seemingly being stymied by a lack of adequate resources available to the security forces,” Clarke expressed.
Clarke argued that the matter of resources, including a satisfactory resolution of the salary issue for the security forces and other public servants, should be a priority in Government’s crime-fighting measures.
He also reiterated calls from among the Jamaican community here for a greater, deeper, and more strategic engagement by Government with the Diaspora, in efforts to reduce the murder figures.