A More Violent Caribbean – UNDP

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News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Feb. 24, 2012: The Caribbean region has become more violent and it is the main challenge facing Caribbean countries.

That’s according to the Caribbean Human Development Report 2012 from the UNDP. Across all countries, 48 percent of respondents to the Citizen Security Survey 2010, were found to have worried at some time about becoming victims of crime.

The report titled, ‘Human Development and the Shift to Better Citizen Security,’ says that with the exception of Barbados and Suriname, homicide rates including gang-related killings have increased substantially in the last 12 years across the Caribbean, while they have been falling or stabilizing in other parts of the world.

Latin America and the Caribbean are home to 8.5 percent of the world population, yet the region accounts for some 27 percent of the world’s homicides. Even though the total number of murders in Jamaica dropped after the report’s completion to 1,124 in 2011, a seven-year low, the country has the highest homicide rate in the Caribbean and the third-highest murder rate worldwide in recent years, with about 60 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. This is surpassed by only two Central American countries, El Salvador and Honduras with 66 and 82.1 murders respectively per 100,000 people says the report, citing UN Office on Drugs and Crime figures. In Trinidad and Tobago, the report notes that murder rates increased five-fold over a decade, to more than 40 per 100,000 in 2008, and then declined to 36 in 2010.

The report states that gang-related homicides in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are “substantial and increasing”: The number almost doubled in both countries from 2006-2009. In 2006, Jamaica experienced 1,303 homicides, of which 32.5 percent were gang-related. By 2009, the number of homicides had increased by 377; 48.1 percent were gang-related. In 2006, Trinidad and Tobago experienced 371 homicides, 26.4 percent gang-related; by 2009 the country reported 506 homicides, 34.8 percent gang-related.

Although murder rates are exceedingly high by world standards, the report says that Caribbean governments can reverse the trend, calling for regional governments to beef up public institutions to tackle crime and violence —including the criminal justice system—while boosting preventive measures.
The report, however, found that the rate, level of intensity, and primary form of violence, however, vary from country to country. But in those countries with the highest rates of violence, organized crime and gang violence present the greatest challenge.The report’s authors found that the increase in violent crimes has been accompanied by a decrease in crime clearance and conviction rates. In some countries, the rapid rise in rates of violent crime has been accompanied
by a similarly precipitous decline in arrest and conviction rates to low levels.

They blamed inequality and social exclusion for the high rates of violence, but added that the near immunity to arrest also partly accounts for the high rates of violent crime in some countries.

Analysts also said new types of crimes, such as trafficking in persons, have emerged that may not now be prevalent, but that profoundly
The Report reviews the current state of crime as well as national and regional policies and programs to address the problem in seven English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

“Violence limits people’s choices, threatens their physical integrity, and disrupts their daily lives,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. “This report stresses the need to rethink our approaches to tackling crime and violence and providing security on the ground. We need to follow approaches that are centered on citizen security and address the causes of this recent increase in violent crime, including social, economic, and political exclusion.”

The new study recommends that Caribbean governments implement youth crime prevention through education, as well as provide employment opportunities that target the marginalized urban poor. A shift in focus is needed it says, from a state protection approach to one that focuses on citizen security and participation, promoting law enforcement that is fair, accountable, and more respectful of human rights.

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