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what are the main causes of crime in Jamaica?

What are the main causes of crime in Jamaica? || Answered by Isheba Cornwall, Student Writer

Let's break this down, shall we?

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, crime is “An illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government, especially a gross violation of law”.

But crime in Jamaica is a complex issue that has to be analysed from the root. It stems from a myriad of factors ranging from poverty and parenting to the lack of perceive justice and trust in the government.

The following are the biggest factors, in my opinion, that contributes to crimes that occurs in Jamaica.

Poverty / Unemployment

In my opinion, the primary reason for crime is the immense poverty in certain, or should I say, abandoned, areas of the country.

The sad truth is that there are still many Jamaicans living well below the poverty line, which means that some are not able to provide for themselves and therefore will seek other methods of surviving.

The juxtaposition of a life of poverty with the life of the rich or middle class frequently portrayed on television, and in day to day life, will inevitably cause those who feel sidelined tempted to take from those they deemed 'have' - remember the 'Have vs the HaveNots' speech my Mr. Seaga? Read more here.

Poverty and unemployment also allow for young boys, from what I've observed, to be recruited into gangs in order to get money to provide for their families. Some will become trapped in the life of violence as the only means to put food on the table.

The Justice System

Another problem in Jamaica that facilitates crime is the justice system. Each year, many cases are thrown out for lack of evidence or have been prolonged for years after the date of the crime till it affects the chance of a sound hearing. We simply do not have enough judges and courts to try all the cases that are being filed in a timely manner.

There is also a perception that law enforcement has an element of corruption in it which causes distrust between residents and the police forces. Corruption also causes many key witnesses to be scared to testify for fear of their livelihood (and indeed lives) afterwards.

I believe that this environment causes criminals to conclude that even if they do get caught, the chances of them getting locked away is low as the case may not be solved for years.

The 'Not Me' mentality

Translation: The “informers should die” mentality.

The overall chill and relaxed vibe in Jamaica unfortunately extends into our treatment of crime as well. The dominant attitude is that crime is not a personal issue, unless the crime impacted a loved one.


Crime also stems from the unfortunate presence of ‘dons’ or leaders in depressed communities who are heavily affiliated with gun or scamming crimes.

These dons (gang leaders) usually take care of the community in that they may provide money to families for buying school books, help to pay rent or even send a child to university.

The don then becomes the centre of economic and social livelihood in the community who is a revered leader that residents can depend on. This would be directly contrasted with the government or “the system” which seemingly doesn’t provide in the same way from the perspective of the community members.

Unfortunately, many of these dons, facilitate crimes to maintain their 'donmanship'.

Drug Use

Outside of drug trafficking in the Caribbean (in general) and its inherent impact, it is worth noting that a considerable number of Jamaicans, men in particular, use weed, and excessively too, daily. One direct issue with that is that it impairs the regular functioning of the brain and, according to medical practitioners, may cause violent, irrational outbursts.

Before I Go...

It should be worth noting that as with any other country, there are many causes for crime in Jamaica, and many are interconnected or related.
It should be encouraging though to note that the majority of crimes are concentrated in the so called innercity, depressed or garrison areas of the island (usually where lottery scamming is prevalent).

For the most part, the rest of Jamaica is relatively safe. In fact, many of the more rural communities, such as Treasure Beach in St. Elizabeth, experience little to no crime over sustained periods of time.

By the way, did you hear that Accompong, the maroon village in Jamaica, did not record a murder for over 250 years? Read more here

Crime in Jamaica is often sensationalized in the mass media as crimes similar in nature happen across the globe. That is not to say that we don’t have serious issues, but simply to say that we shouldn’t overlook the good that the amazing people of this wonderful country have done and continues to do.

Just ask any visitor to the island - what makes Jamaica special and why do they continue to return, in most cases, they'll tell you its our people.

I hope this answered your question. I welcome my readers' comments here


P.S. See also: Is Jamaica Safe

Comments for what are the main causes of crime in Jamaica?

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Sep 06, 2020
by: Anonymous

I think the article touches on critical points that are valid. Of course, they are those who would seek to undermine the overall crime-issue for petty (technical) reasons. The idea of "Dons" and the perception of an unjust justice system would be difficult to dispute. Crime tolerated anywhere is a threat to civility everywhere. That would make it challenging to justify Jamaica as safe. Perception - real or imaginary - becomes reality to most.

Jul 16, 2018
Accurate reasons!
by: Innati

I believe many of these reasons are very valid and only the ignorant or probably those guilty of these factors would disagree... Nice article!

Jul 15, 2018
by: Bamboodread

Which doctor tell you that ganja is responsible for violent outbursts?

Jul 15, 2018
Well written
by: Wellesley

Thanks for your response to the question Isheba.

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