1.1.1. Jamaica is faced with a deep crisis of public safety and an equally deep crisis of public confidence in the willingness and capability of the criminal justice administration to effectively respond to the challenges. This crisis of public safety is manifested in the extraordinarily high murder rate and the high rate of violent crimes. More importantly, driving the figures are troubling social processes that have culminated in what has been officially described as a culture of violence1. In 2005, the country returned a murder rate of 63 incidents per 100,000 citizens. This places us at the top of the ranking as the most murderous country in the world.2 In the five-year period 2001-2005, there were 6304 reported murders, some 6919 shootings, approximately 4324 rapes and 1078 cases of carnal abuse. This high level of violent crime has persisted for some 30 years. Violence has now become a familiar part of everyday life in urban Jamaica. In these regions of the country, there are few persons that remain completely untouched by this violent criminality – regardless of class, colour or creed.
1.1.2. The crisis of public confidence in the criminal justice administration is also expressed in the high levels of fear of crime and the view that crime is out of control. Every day the “average” urban citizen witnesses a number of incidents of law violations and public disorder that go unchallenged by the authorities and their fellow citizens. These may occur in very public places such as the transport centres and markets where extortionists ply their trade, “taxing” taxi operators, hagglers and store owners; in schools where children may violently attack their fellow students with near impunity; and in some communities where young men are able to openly parade with their illegal guns and to boast of “making duppies”. Moreover, from time to time the violence of the competing organized crime networks are able to shut down sections of the capital and other towns as has repeatedly been the case in Downtown Kingston and Spanish Town. Not surprisingly, national polls now show criminal violence to be the first concern among the Jamaican citizenry.3
1.1.3. The response capability of the State has been weakened or hollowed out by corruption. There is general consensus that Jamaica suffers from endemic corruption and that this has been spreading throughout the system – and has become institutionalized in the Police Force, is evident in the Department of Corrections and even in the judiciary.
1 National Security Strategy for Jamaica 2005
2 The reader should note that some countries with very high homicide rates do not report these rates to INTERPOL and the WHO which also publish homicide rates; we do not have estimates for these countries.
3 See Daily Gleaner March 14, 2006, page 3.