The Jamaican government, with the support of the United States, is seeking to identify criminals who orchestrate crimes in the country despite residing abroad. Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the announcement in December 2022, stating that he considered this a key point in his strategy to combat crime and violence plaguing the island, Caribbean National Weekly reported.
“It’s easy to think that you can have 1,000 deaths happening for local reasons, for events that went in the wrong direction, settling of scores between local gangs, attacks on people who are not paying protection, etc.,” Enrique Desmond Arias, a professor of Western Hemisphere Affairs at Baruch College’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs in New York, told Diálogo on January 7. “I would be surprised, with all that has happened in the last 40 years, if there weren’t some homicides happening in Jamaica ordered by gang members living in the United States.”
Jamaican authorities have already provided law enforcement agencies in the United States with the names of persons living on U.S. soil who support or sponsor criminal activity on the island.
“We provide agencies and entities with a list of names that we track and have intelligence on. The U.S. entities are doing their job,” Holness said on Jamaica’s Nationwide News Network radio. “We can’t say too much, but the results of our efforts will be seen very soon. We need to use these partnerships to interdict criminals overseas.”
The Jamaican government met with the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI, at which time they addressed the growing threat of transnational criminal gangs, organized criminal violence, and illegal arms trafficking into the island, Holness said in late December. In addition, the meeting allowed for the revision of existing programs and partnerships, identification of gaps, and consideration of new opportunities to advance cooperation between both nations by sharing information more expeditiously, the Jamaica Observer newspaper reported.
Faced with escalating violence in the country, the government decreed a new state of emergency on December 28 for the parishes of St. Ann, Clarendon, Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Catherine, St. James, Westmoreland, and Hanover, Holness said via Twitter.
Crime on the rise
“States of public emergency again prove to be the fastest and most effective way of rapidly reducing violent crimes,” Major General Antony Anderson, commissioner of Police of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, told the press. “During the first period of the state of emergencies declared in November  murders were reduced by as high as 64 percent and increased by as much as 171 percent […] when the emergency powers were removed.”
The move came following the increase in homicides in the country, with 1,498 homicides recorded from January 1 to December 31, 2022, surpassing the 1,474 murders of 2021, Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner reported.
“Threat levels of gang conflict, contract killings, and store thefts remain high and widespread,” Holness told German broadcaster DW.
Jamaica is the largest Caribbean source of illicit marijuana bound for the United States and local Caribbean islands, as well as a transit point for cocaine to North America and Europe, according to the U.S. State Department.
“I think Holness wants his people to understand that Jamaica’s problems are not just Jamaica’s […], that they come from a transnational relationship, from the role the country plays in international drug trafficking […],” Arias said. “I also think that Holness probably recognizes that the United States can also help Jamaica by doing things from its country.”
As part of efforts to counter these threats, the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs has been providing support since 2016 under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative to professionalize and enhance counternarcotics capabilities of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, as well as strengthen criminal justice in Jamaica.