Caribbean crime wave hampers economic development: UN report

Caribbean crime wave hampers economic development: UN report

By Dialogo
January 31, 2014



Latin America and the Caribbean nations comprise 8.5 percent of the world’s population but account for 27 percent of the world’s homicides, according to a recent report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The report, which is the most recent analysis of homicide statistics for the region, states that violent crime is hampering economic development in the regions.
The Caribbean Human Development Report (HDR), released in November 2013, analyzes the impact of insecurity and violence on “small island developing states” in the Caribbean. It also provides recommendations on how to address violent crime in the seven countries selected for this study: Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago.
Of the more than 1,200 people were surveyed for the UNDP report, nearly 10 percent said they had been victims of crime in the preceding 12 months. That ranged from a low of 6 percent in Jamaica to a high of 11 percent in Antigua & Barbuda, St. Lucia and Barbados.
In addition, 30 percent of females surveyed said they worry about being sexually assaulted, while 12 percent of women and 9 percent of men fear domestic violence. The percentage of those who had actually experienced domestic violence ranged from a low of 6 percent in Jamaica to a high of 17 percent in Guyana.
In Trinidad, the ruling People’s Partnership government vowed to “defeat criminals within the law” after the twin-island nation recorded its 19th homicide in a span of seven days.
“I will not allow an evil and violent minority to continue to inflict harm, fear and tragedy on the lives of our citizens,” Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar told reporters Jan. 8, 2014, following a meeting of her National Security Council. “Wherever you hide, whoever your accomplices are and whatever you believe you have done with impunity, we will find you, and you will be punished.”

Trinidad: ‘All hands on deck’ to fight violent crime

Police Commissioner Stephen Williams has restricted all leave for police officers “so we can have all hands on deck in the fight against crime,” the prime minister said.
“This means all officers from the top to the bottom. There is to be a greater collaborative effort between the police and the defense forces to maximize the use of all their resources,” she said, adding that she would no longer tolerate excuses for failure. “Violence by a very small minority is eating away at the freedoms and peace that the majority has a right to enjoy.”
The new anti-crime measures are the latest to be unveiled by the government of Persad-Bissessar, who became prime minister in May 2010. Following Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson’s January 2013 declaration that Trinidad would cut its homicide rate in half, the government launched joint military-police patrols and deployed 2,000 additional troops to fight arms trafficking.
The most notable strategic shift occurred in August 2011, when Persdad-Bissessar declared a state of emergency in certain areas of the country affected by gang activity. This included most of Port of Spain and its suburbs, along with the cities of San Fernando, Arima and Chaguanas.
The state of emergency, originally called for 15 days but ultimately extended for 90 days, instituted an 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew and gave military personnel the power to search, seize property and arrest people.
The government’s new anti-crime strategy isn’t as drastic as was the state of emergency declared in 2011, when 354 homicides were reported in the country. That was an improvement over 2008, when 550 homicides were recorded in Trinidad. It was the country’s most violent year on record. In 2012, homicide rate was 35.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Homicide rate still a concern

Despite the oil wealth that has given Trinidad & Tobago an annual per-capita income of about $18,000, the country is grappling with one of the Caribbean’s highest homicide rates. Some of the violence is driven by violent transnational criminal organizations, authorities said. Drug traffickers frequently use Trinidad as a transshipment hub for cocaine smuggled to the United States, Mexico, and Europe.
Drug traffickers sometimes use legitimate businesses to transport drugs.
For example, on Jan. 21, 2014 U.S. officials announced they had confiscated 732 pounds of cocaine concealed in cans of fruit juice at the Port of Norfolk in Virginia. Federal investigators estimated the wholesale value of the cocaine — shipped from SM Jaleel & Co. Ltd., a local beverage manufacturer in Port of Spain — at $12 million, with a street value of up to $100 million.
In a statement to the press, the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association said that “SM Jaleel has over 90 years of dedicated service to the socioeconomic landscape of Trinidad and Tobago, is a substantial employers as well as the largest non-petrochemical exporter in the country. It is a model of local business success. Unfortunately, some of its brands and products appear to be targeted by sophisticated drug smugglers.”

National security chief vows to punish drug smugglers

Gary Griffith, the country’s minister of national security, told the Trinidad Express newspaper that those behind the illegal cocaine shipment would be caught.
“Regardless of who it is or how high it goes, I can assure you that I will do all I can to ensure that the persons are brought to justice,” Griffith said. “People always ask about the ‘big fish.’ Well, I want the ‘big fish’ badly.”
Drug trafficking is a particular problem for the Caribbean, the UNDP said in its report, because it spawns high levels of violence and corruption.
“The Caribbean is a critical transit route between drug producers and large-scale consumers,” the report said. “An improved worldwide policy addressing the problem of addictive drugs could contribute considerably to reducing levels of violence and social disruption in the Caribbean.”
Gary Griffith, the country’s minister of national security, told the Trinidad Express newspaper that those behind the illegal cocaine shipment would be caught.
“Regardless of who it is or how high it goes, I can assure you that I will do all I can to ensure that the persons are brought to justice,” Griffith said. “People always ask about the ‘big fish.’ Well, I want the ‘big fish’ badly.”
Drug trafficking is a particular problem for the Caribbean, the UNDP said in its report, because it spawns high levels of violence and corruption.
“The Caribbean is a critical transit route between drug producers and large-scale consumers,” the report said. “An improved worldwide policy addressing the problem of addictive drugs could contribute considerably to reducing levels of violence and social disruption in the Caribbean.”




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