Can Jamaica Control Its Crime Problem?

By David Rowe
Op-Ed Contributor

The murder of 19-year-old Franciena Johnson and her cousin Nadia Fearon) on Christmas Eve was a terrible development for Jamaican tourism and the perception of Jamaican stability held by the Jamaican Diaspora.

Franciena was a US citizen who had been born in Jamaica; Nadia had always lived on the island.

Franciena had been visiting Nadia and her grandmother, simply looking for a relaxing Christmas vacation in her place of birth.

But, like too many lives in Jamaica in recent years, hers and Nadia’s ended prematurely.

Sadly, this is nothing new for the country, which remains one of the murder capitals of the world.

The targets have been off-duty policeman, retired policemen, business owners, innocent young boys and girls.

Crime is now the most significant national problem in Jamaica and the Prime Minister may be forced to abandon her effort at obtaining international aid abroad and focus her time on resolving this very serious problem.

It affects all levels of Jamaican society — political, social, cultural, economic.

Peter Bunting, Jamaica’s Minister of National Security is a talented politician, and a potential future leader of the country. But he may not be able (or perhaps permitted) to take the drastic actions required to stop organized crime.

There is simply no point on wasting money on promoting investment when investors are aware that the murder rate is so high that personal security is required for any high-net-worth individual to visit Jamaica.

Crime has permeated Jamaican culture; lotto scam operators, for example, continue to operate without significant incursion.

Crime has become part of the Jamaican psyche to the point where Jamaicans no longer react with shock to reports concerning multiple deaths of victims of crime.

When five individuals were shot dead in Montego Bay earlier this month, the incident did not attract considerable political comment.

Although no tourists were harmed, the multiplicity of deaths could not be hidden from international media.

Importantly, the diaspora, as whole does not believe that enough is being done by the current government in Jamaica to stop violent crime.

It is time for Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to take action and do what is necessary to tackle this problem once and for all.

David P Rowe is an attorney in Jamaica and Florida and an adjunct law professor at the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables, Fla.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.