Jamaica’s homicide numbers are horrifying. World’s second most murderous country in 2017. Earth’s highest violent death rate for women. Almost ten times as murderous as the world average. 20,642 murders in the 15 years 2014-2018, a rate of 51 per 100,000. Probably no country not officially at war has seen such a high sustained murder rate. To paraphrase the famous South African novel, Cry My Murderous Country.

Even more terrifying are the barbaric acts we regularly experience.

The 2005 Barnes Avenue Massacre where  thugs threw Molotov cocktail bombs into a house and stood guard with automatic weapons to prevent anyone aiding the three adults and child being burnt alive. (

The July 2011 Lauristan beheading of Charmaine Rattray and her 19-year-old daughter by invading gunmen.


The October 2016 March Pen Massacre where two adults and three children, were shot, killed and their homes torched. (

The August 2018 gang rape and murder and burning of 14-year-old Yetanya Francis in Arnett Gardens. (

In 1962 Jamaica had 66 murders and a lower homicide rate than the US. Our 2018 rate is over ten times that of 1962, and ten times that of the current US rate. What caused this tragedy? Only one of set people could be responsible, our politicians. 

Ja murder rate.png

Objective observers know both parties are to blame, with the Jlp and Pnp showing incredible indifference to Jamaican lives. The first signs came in 1965-1966, which saw the second greatest murder percentage increase in Jamaican history - surpassed only by the 'civil war' election upsurge of 1979-1980.

Murders went from 64 in 1965 to 110 in 1966, a 69% rise. This ‘increase’ was concentrated in West Kingston with political undertones. The then Jlp Prime Minister approved a State of Emergency in West Kingston even though it was a Jlp seat. Who was to blame for this deadly upsurge - sitting Jlp MP Edward Seaga, Pnp challenger Dudley Thompson or both?

An inexorable spread of political gun handouts, dons and garrisons followed. Murders rose until our under 4 per 100,000 rate of 1962 became 60 plus. One of the planet’s safer countries became one of the bloodiest. Every Jamaican politician should hang their head in shame. So should we who elected them. 

Most Jamaicans were disheartened by the recent decision of 21 PNP MPs not to support the security force's request for a renewal of the State of Emergency which has cut the murders by 22%. A March Don Anderson poll showed 89% in favour of the SOE. Vox pops suggest support has not declined.

We all know the SOE by itself is not the solution. But it is indispensable to any realistic strategy along the lines of:

Short term: Intelligently applied force to normalize matters, by taking the irredeemable out of circulation - namely SOEs. Medium term: Social intervention to redeem the redeemable. Long term: Ending our education apartheid by enabling inner city access to decent education, including early childhood interventions.

The arguments put forward for not supporting an SOE extension seem rather weak. The Public Defender’s report highlighting supposed human rights abuses was not supported by the facts. The conditions and number of detainees cited were shown to apply only to the early operation stages and not to obtain now. Her claim of 125 children locked up has been contradicted by the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA).

CHILDREN'S Advocate ‘Diahann Gordon Harrison says investigations… found that fewer than a quarter of the 105 individuals classified as children, said to have been detained under the SOE in St James, were actually minors...Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry had told the parliamentary committee that 105 children, up to the age of 17, had been detained…’

The questionable accuracy of the Public Defender’s Report rather undermines the arguments of those citing it as proof that human rights abuses have made the SOE untenable, and has led to some rather spurious arguments. The ‘4,000 locked up and only 139 detained’ statements leave out the ‘353 lives saved’ reality. The ‘human rights of poor young black men are being taken away by the SOE’ argument ignores that 80% plus of murder victims in Jamaica are poor young black men, and it is mostly these lives the SOE is saving. Is the greatest human right not the right to stay alive?

We also hear ‘It’s not SOE measures making the difference, it’s merely more boots on the ground’ and ‘We need to forget the SOE and focus on a comprehensive crime plan’. But such logic forgets 30 years of murders rising from 439 in 1989 to 1616 in 2017. We must have seen over a dozen ‘crime plans and strategies’ and countless ‘flooding areas with police and soldiers’, as in the infamous 1992 Operation Ardent immortalized by Buju Banton. ‘Wid helicopter inna air, bright light a shine a grung… Mi see 14, me see matic an' SLR gun… Soldier corral de place from head to de grung’.

Like all such knee jerk half-measures, Ardent failed, as murder unprecedentedly increased every year from 1989 to 1997. The only ‘crime plans’ since 1989 that have sharply cut murders are the 2010 SOE and the 2018 SOE.

As to ‘But we have had a whole year of SOEs’, well yes, and murders have fallen by 22%. We were hoping a mere 12 months of SOEs would cut murder by 100%? If we had three years of SOEs with murder declines of 20%, annual murders would fall to 800. Which life valuing Jamaican would not welcome that equation?

Under Security Minster Peter Phillips 2002-2007, murders went from 1,139 to 1,574, a 36% increase. Under Security Minister Peter Bunting 2012-2015, murders went from 1,125 to 1,193, a 5% increase. The numbers show both failed to come up with any successful crime plan when in charge. Why then should we take seriously their loud claims to have all the crime solutions and know better than the security forces what needs to be done to cut murders?

SOE and other associated crime fighting measures over the past year, have to date resulted in 353 less murders than 2017, a 22% decline. If sustained, this would be the largest absolute and percentage reduction in murders since 1981, 37 years ago. And the main pillar responsible for this historic drop is what the Opposition voted down last week.

Claims that the SOE ‘might be unconstitutional’, should surely be tested in court with pro and con arguments producing a final legal judgement. You don’t abruptly vote down the most successful anti-crime measure in 37 years unless absolutely certain you have no choice. Not if you value Jamaican lives.

The most lunatic of ‘let’s stop the SOE’ arguments must be ‘Murders have returned to normal, so let’s go back to normal crime fighting methods’. This chart puts the Jamaican murder rate in a global context. Latin America is the most violent region on earth, averaging 16 murders per 100,000. Jamaica’s current murder rate is about three times that. Anyone who claims our current murder situation is ‘normal’, must be drunk, insane or heartless.

Murder 2.png

Yes other crime fighting measures are needed, such as more trained police, more modern equipment, and better police communication with the public. But we can continue the SOEs while working on these. How much longer should we keep SOEs in place? Well if Jamaica’s murder rate was the same as Latin America’s average, homicides would be under 500 a year, about 1989 levels. Only then could we consider ourselves a ‘normally’ murderous country.

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