Wed | Apr 8, 2020

MoBay Chamber applauds murder plunge in St James

Published:Monday | February 17, 2020 | 12:24 AM

The Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) has commended the security forces for what it called “an unprecedented reduction in homicides” in St James.

The parish has recorded its lowest murder rate in the last 20 years, with only six reported murders in the first 44 days of 2020.

The business group said that the “acceleration of violence has been taxing on the parish” and on the tourist industry, which is the engine of commerce especially for the resort city of Montego Bay.

“The MBCCI is pleased to see the implementation of firm and resolute measures which have sought to combat the complex and vexing problem of crime, including the public state of emergency, as well as proactive policing methods,” a statement issued yesterday said.

“The decline in violence paves the way for an urban revival, which will in turn help to stabilise communities and make the parish safer to live, do business, and expand tourism.”

At the current rate, about 50 people will be killed at year end.

States of emergency imposed in the northwestern parish over the last two years have pulled down the spate of killings that spiked to a record high of 342 in 2017.

That year, St James recorded a per-capita murder rate of 137 per 100,000, almost three times the national average.

Killings fell to 103 in 2018 but rose to 152 the following year, which saw a three-month hiatus in the security crackdown.

However, a murder on Saturday afternoon in Mount Salem is a grim reminder of how violent the streets of St James remain. Sydele Malcolm, a 58-year-old unemployed man of St Lucia Crescent, was shot and killed by unknown assailants. It is unclear whether the shooting occurred within the boundaries of the zone of special operations in effect in Mount Salem.

Meanwhile, the chamber called for the implementation of a comprehensive, long-term crime plan to curb the inflow of illegal guns, forge stronger police-community relations, and root out the causal conditions of violence.

“The goal is not just to stop the killings; it is to break the cycle of violence and displace criminal activities rooted in poverty and deprivation. The security forces by themselves cannot achieve this. It takes a united effort from a wide range of state and non-state actors,” the group said.