Thursday, June 19, 2008

Headed for a Regional Crime Plan

Crime may well be an issue that anyone with an interest in the Caribbean may not want to face, but unfortunately we have to. Jamaica was once seen as the crime capital of the Caribbean when compared to the level of crime in her sister islands. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case as crime is becoming a big problem all across the region.

As leaders look towards getting a grip on the crime wave, talk of hanging is once again on the agenda and frustrated citizens demand a return of capital punishment. In Jamaica, Prime Minister Bruce Golding recently announced that the issue of capital will be dealt with once and for all.

Mr. Golding has indicated that the administration is speeding up plans to make a decision once and for all on the resumption of hanging in Jamaica. According to PM Golding, the ‘issue will be put to a conscience vote’, and “If the results of that vote that will be driven by conscience say we abolish hanging then we will abolish it and if the results say we must retain hanging, then we are going to oil up the gallows.”

What is now needed is a regional crime plan. As Trinidadian Prime Minister Patrick Manning said in March when interviewed, “The region is not losing the war on crime, nor can the region afford to lose the war on crime…” Manning is just reiterating something all Caribbean leaders know. The region is too heavily reliant on tourism to allow crime to continue to rise at current levels. If crime is allowed to disrupt the tourism product, the economic impact would be devastating. The World Bank report (2007) stated that “The tourism-dependent Caribbean may now have the world’s highest murder rate as a region, severely affecting potential economic growth…”

Another negative of the rising crime levels as explained by Guyanese businessman, Ramesh Singh is a worsening of the brain drain being experienced in the region. As Singh said in an interview published by IPS News, “People want to live in comfort, not having to look over their shoulders, not having to carry a gun to defend themselves. The middle and professional class are going to bail out if the situation is not corrected ….”

According to a 2007 United Nations-World Bank report, there were 30 murders per 100,000 residents over the period of the study. The murder rate in the Caribbean is 15 times the rate in West and Central Europe, and reportedly 4 times the rate in North America. The previously mentioned UN-World Bank report said that ‘The murder rate in the Caribbean was even higher than that in troubled southern and western Africa.’

So, with reports of cross-border crime on the rise, it will definitely take a joint effort to begin to tackle the spiraling crime problem before it totally ruins the region’s tourism and trade.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks

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