No murders for St Elizabeth in May – Jamaica Observer

SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth – Such is the current perception of high crime in this south central parish, even United States authorities listed it among Do Not Travel areas in their most recent travel advisory about Jamaica.
However, police records tell a different story – highlighted by nothing in St Elizabeth’s murder column for May, continuing a sharp downward trend since the start of 2023.
“There were no murders committed in the division for the entire month of May,” an upbeat chief of police in the parish, Superintendent Kenneth Chin, told the recent monthly meeting of the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation.
As he did last month, when he reported seven murders up to the end of April compared to 15 for the similar period in 2022, Chin applauded those “good citizens” who chose to resolve their differences peacefully. He also hailed the work of the police.
Murder numbers are routinely used by Jamaicans as a yardstick for the country’s crime rate.
Chin said there were 14 fewer serious and violent crimes in May compared to April including a seven percent decrease in shootings and a 50 per cent decrease in reports of rape.
However, there was an increase in break-ins, robberies and woundings.
Chin reiterated his message from last month that the murder figures for the year-to-date are the lowest since 2017. Shootings are at their lowest since 2018, he said.
Responding to requests which he said were often made by citizens and their representatives for curfews and cordons, Chin said that based on the Constabulary Force Act there was no rationale for such steps given the relatively low crime numbers in St Elizabeth.
In fact, he said, St Elizabeth was the “third lowest in terms of murders” nationally “… which is 1.6 per cent of the murders across Jamaica …”
As to shootings, St Elizabeth was fourth, with 3.1 percent of such incidents across Jamaica, Chin said.
“… With the limited resources available to JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force) if I as commanding officer apply for a curfew it would not be supported by high command based on our numbers… because there are other policing (methodologies) that we can use outside o f curfews, cordons, SOES …,” the St Elizabeth divisional chief said.
He told councilors that there had been 15 gun seizures for the year up to May compared to nine for the similar period last year. For all of last year 14 illegally held guns were seized by police in St Elizabeth, he said.
Councillors complained of a seeming increase in the theft of goats, and while he had no figures, Chin said he was aware of recent reports and would be moving to deploy more resources “to treat with agricultural crimes”.
He observed that St Elizabeth was “a unique division” because of its reputation as a major producer of domestic food. He had emphasized to the police high command in the parish that emphasis must be placed on curbing farm theft. “When I was being deployed here it was part of my mandate… we will continue to track and treat according to evidence…,” he said.
He agreed with comments from former Mayor of Black River and Councillor for the Balaclava Division, Everton Fisher (PNP), that there should be accelerated expansion of the national closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance programme Jamaica Eye, in major towns across Jamaica. Chin said members of some communities had installed cameras and were now awaiting connection to the national network.
Observing that St Elizabeth has a history of disproportionately high, fatal collisions, Chin said that for the first five months of this year there were 18 deaths from 17 collisions. He concurred with Councillor Albert Williams (Southfield Division – JLP) that there was need for greater road-use education, especially for pedestrians.
He spoke of ongoing community interventions by the police, including numerous visits to schools.
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