Sat | Sep 26, 2020

Letter of the Day | Organised crime an increasing threat to MSMEs

Published:Wednesday | August 12, 2020 | 12:25 AM


Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are the lifeblood of the Jamaican economy. The Government of Jamaica estimates that the sector employs 80 per cent of Jamaicans and contributes significantly to its gross domestic product. However, organised crime groups are progressively carrying out attacks against MSMEs.

Sustained attacks against MSMEs could have a significant impact on the country. As the World Economic Forum observed, organised crime “exacts a multibillion cost on legitimate business, distorts markets and causes widespread ill-effects across society”.

Security professionals globally have recognised that organised crime is one of the single largest threats to enterprises. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines organised crime as: “A group of three or more persons that was not randomly formed; existing for a period of time; acting in concert with the aim of committing at least one crime punishable by at least four years’ incarceration; in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit.”

Organised crime bleeds approximately US$30 billion from the retail industry yearly (NFR, 2019). And with so many criminal gangs operating in Jamaica (National Intelligence Bureau), this could be far-reaching locally.

In May 2020, a significant statement was made in May Pen, Clarendon, where heavily armed gunmen pulled off one of the most daring heists and engaged members of the security forces in a shoot-out. During the stand-off, they took a hostage and escaped in waiting motorcars. Cell-phone footage of the incident showed several heavily armed men operating with tactical precision and impunity. Their mode of operation suggested that they were armed with the necessary information for their mission, such as time of day, defensible points, and escape routes – the details of which could have come from an informed source or careful reconnaissance.

Criminals are also moving away from traditional criminal activities and seeking less risky opportunities. They are using the Internet to attack enterprises from anywhere – even from the comfort of their home. Data from the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Cybercrimes Unit showed that in 2016 alone, there were approximately 200 cybercrime incidents resulting in a J$12.6-billion loss to the economy.

Adequate security is essential to the sustainability of MSMEs; one attack could destroy an enterprise. This is how organised crime works. However, are MSMEs adequately protected against this threat?