PRELIMINARY numbers by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) have shown 1,463 murders committed across the island last year. This was 132 or almost 10 per cent above the murder total for 2020.
The troubled St Andrew South Police Division, which covers more than 20 distinct inner-city communities, accounted for 164 murders in 2021, the most in any single police division for the year.
In 2020 the St Andrew South Police Division also had the dubious distinction of the most murders across the island with 143. Last year represented an almost 15 per cent increase in murders in the division, which was the scene of several curfews and a short-lived state of emergency (SOE).
Westmoreland, with 128 murders, recorded the biggest increase last year, a 60 per cent jump over the 80 murders reported in 2020.
In addition, the Kingston Central Police Division, where a bloody conflict is playing out between criminals linked to the Genasyde and Darkside gangs, saw a 55 per cent increase in murders when compared with 2020.
But, in absolute numbers, the 79 murders in the division, which includes communities dubbed Tel Aviv, South Side, Spoliers, and Rae Town, are well below a number of other police divisions.
Among them were St James, which recorded 160 murders, up from 127 in 2020, an increase of 26 per cent; and St Catherine South, which covers Portmore and Old Harbour, with 132 murders, while Clarendon had 104 people killed during the year.
On the other side of the murder figures came Portland, which recorded 15 killings, the fewest of any of the 19 police divisions. But, despite the relatively low number of murders in the parish, often dubbed Jamaica’s most peaceful, there were worrying signs as the murder total reflected a 50 per cent increase over 2020.
In the meantime, Trelawny, with a 26 per cent decline in the number of murders (17); St Catherine North (99), down 22 per cent; and St Ann (55), with a 21 per cent decline, led the police divisions in which murders were down last year when compared to 2020.
According to the JCF figures, all other major crimes decreased last year, with shootings being almost two per cent below 2020, reported cases of rape 25 per cent below the previous year, and robberies showing a decline of 24 per cent.
Last November, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced SOEs in seven of the island’s deadliest police divisions — St Andrew South, Kingston West, Kingston Central, and Kingston East in the Corporate Area; St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland.
At that time Holness noted that all seven divisions had murder rates per 100,000 in excess of the regional average, which is 15 per cent. He pointed out that the murder rate in these divisions ranged from a low of approximately 47 per 100,000 to a high of 190 per 100,000.
“We have decided to recommend the declaration of SOEs, having regard to the increase in murders, compared year on year, both in the communities in which we have declared them and nationally. These increases we consider to be of an extensive scale such that they threaten public safety, both in the communities in which the SOEs have been declared and nationally,” declared Holness at the time.
He announced then that the SOEs were also declared because of the nature and frequency of violence surrounding the murders and other crimes, “which has evolved to a level of barbarity and a level of savagery. It is almost [like] a competition for cruelty”.
But the Government failed to get the support of the Opposition for the SOEs.
After using its numbers to get a two-thirds majority in the Lower House, the Administration failed to convince any Opposition senator to side with it, causing the collapse of the SOEs after 14 days.