Determined to curb the bloodletting in some parishes in Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has not only imposed temporary state of emergency powers in seven local parishes but he has asked the U.S. to help him curb the export of high powered and other weapons to the island, blaming it for runaway gangland violence.
Holness told a forum at the weekend that the government is also changing tactics to enlist American enforcement authorities to help them identify and monitor Jamaican gangster bosses living in the U.S. who are still exerting influence back home, ordering killings, supervising extortion rings and sending guns to the island to receiving gangs. He called this a worrying trend that has to go.
“We are going to ensure that they can no longer stay in another country and direct crime here. There are several loopholes in our system which we will be closing. We have been engaging with our U.S. counterparts in discussions on further measures that could be taken to stem the flow of illegal guns into Jamaica,” said a frustrated PM.
The latest cabinet position comes as authorities are battling to keep violent crime down in some key parishes including the capital and the northern and western lifeline tourism districts.
For the year so far, 1,360 people have been killed. Enforcement officials and the governing Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) fear that the 2021 figure of 1,463 could be easily surpassed if curbs are not imposed on gangs and are not imposed immediately.
The plan, the PM told a governing party conference, is for local authorities to demand greater personal identification of people shipping parcels, commercial barrels and other cargo to Jamaica from the U.S. and for the feds to keep a closer eye on those identified as Jamaican area dons living in U.S. cities.
“I have put to our U.S. friends the need to require greater identification for persons sending packages to Jamaica from the U.S. We will also be opening discussions with our U.S. friends to have special operations to target Jamaican dons overseas who are using their resources and influence to solicit and direct murders here in Jamaica. Instead of sending back computers and assisting with school fees, they are sending guns and bullets to encourage you to kill your brothers and sisters. They mean us no good. They must be arrested and locked away for good. We will put a stop to this,” he said.
Worried that there will be a violent crime surge in the lead-up to the Christmas holidays, Holness said more enforcement officers and troops will be on the ground in the parishes under emergency rule even as he appealed to the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) to support the emergency measures in parliament.
Jamaica’s crime woes are the topic for discussion even as officials in fellow Caribbean Community nations, Trinidad, Barbados and The Bahamas are complaining about uncomfortable spikes in violent crimes, mostly involving the use of high powered weapons and handguns they believed are being smuggled in from North and South America.
For Trinidad, the twin-island federation with Tobago appears to be on course for a record number of murders this year with nearly 530 so far. This puts the nation on course to match the 2008 figure of 550. Police are already saying that the 2019 figure of 539 killings will be easily surpassed. Like Trinidad, officers are blaming gang violence and rivalries and the smuggling of guns from nearby Venezuela. In one murderous weekend recently, police docked 14 killings.
In The Bahamas, police have recorded 103 murders for the year so far or about a 6% increase over least year.