The Booming Business of Crime in Jamaica, Its Inception and How to Curb It

“Welcome to the next Medellin” said a friend to me this morning.  

We were discussing the murder trial of Patrick Powell playing out in a Kingston courtroom as well as the killing of a man who refused to pay his fare on a bus just this week.

Killings are nothing new, in fact, they have become so commonplace that there is hardly any response to them anymore. Jamaicans have come to accept death as nothing to be sorrowful about and have moved on to how the culture of killings may be exploited for financial gain .


The Medellin reference was jarringly poignant because it has been a reference I have used in speaking to what has been allowed to develop in Jamaica arguably for decades but which has systematically taken shape over the last two decades.

We can have a discussion about crime in the abstract . You know, we can look at crime academically as some like to do from the halls of academia, churning out hypotheses developed in places far away geographically or even right there on the ground but are far removed from reality.

A policeman places markers at a crime scene - Image via
A policeman places markers at a crime scene – Image via

Alternatively we may discuss it pragmatically and address the hard truths of what must be done if the direction of the country is to be altered. Before we do that however the critical question of whether or not the desired end game is a crime free country must be answered.

It is fundamental that-that question be placed on the table whenever the question of crime is being discussed. There is a general consensus among many Jamaicans both at home and in the diaspora that crime is big business in our country and as such the difficulties being experienced in crafting and implementing a serious anti-crime strategy may be attributed to that. They point to the massive increase over the years of security companies, funeral parlors, and the secondary industries which have sprung up around the morbid death culture.

There is much we can point to that has gotten the island to the place it is, tethering on the brink of becoming a failed state, obvious to all except some living in it.


A man jumps over the wall to someone’s home to steal some mangoes from a tree laden with ripe fruits in the front yard.
Sure the man is hungry we all need sustenance to survive.
Out comes the homeowner and challenges the offender.
The offender takes umbrage and gets into a physical confrontation with the homeowner.
The homeowner in defense of his life and property pulls a weapon and kills the offender.

The Media and the ever present crowd which just happen to always be around to witness these events[sic] argues that the man was a ‘good yute’ who wouldn’t hurt a fly.

They demonstrate while portraying the homeowner as a wicked person who killed the good yute  who was starving and only wanted something to eat.
The honest homeowner is demonized and threatened, his life and that of his family is now at risk.
He is forced to flee his home in order to protect his life and that of his family.
His property is taken over by thugs.



Same man passing home sees ripened mangoes on tree in front yard.
He is hungry so he decides to open the gate. Sure it’s risky but a hungry man has to take chances.
He knocks on the grill and the homeowner comes out onto the verandah/porch. He tells the homeowner that he was passing and having seen the mangoes and being hungry he decided to ask for a few mangoes.
The homeowner sizes him up at first then decides to let him in where he is treated to a meal. Before he leaves the homeowner gives him some money, allows him to have some mangoes and offers him the opportunity to come and do some work around the house once a week so he can earn a little money .
He walks away filled, some money in his pocket and with some mangoes. Let alone the prospect of a part time job.
But most importantly he walked away !

Image Source:
Image Source:

It did not get here overnight , it was nurtured and encouraged.

Oh even when this kind homeowner does all that, the young man turns up for work and is treated well. The  homeowner leaves him in his house when he travels abroad.
On his return he brings all kinds of foreign stuff for him as he does for his family.
Nevertheless the young man, never satisfied steals the man’s car. And ultimately brings his friend lets him into the house where he kills the homeowner.
The narrations above are purely fictional. 
This paragraph isn’t . I cannot tell you how many situations I attended to in which this synopsis characterized the story of murder which brought us to that home.

Much of the problems in our country began because of the cultural sense that people should not have to ask for anything. They should be allowed to take what they wantand when challenged simply kill the owner.

Complicit in the creation of that narrative was the Media, which for years wittingly and unwittingly served as a well lubricated conduit for the anti rule of law narrative. Sacrificing Journalism upon the altar of sensationalism, in order to  receive a few “raaaay” even when they knew that what they were reporting could not possibly be true.

They absolutely knew that the hundreds of witnesses who turned out demonstrating Police brutality could not have been in the bedroom of John Brown when he was killed at 3;30 in the morning. But journalistic integrity never kicked in when they offer them microphones to lie , even though they knew they were lying.

Much the same way they profiled demonstrators demonstrating police brutality signs in a case where a bus-driver killed a passenger who refused to pay his fare and attacked the driver and conductor. It never mattered to the media that there was no police involved in the shooting they portrayed it as such anyway.
No journalistic integrity. For years the media facilitated this fraud on the country without being held accountable.

The media’s subtle injection of the word “allegedly” into every story coming from law-enforcement, not only aided and encouraged crime it actually emboldened leading criminals within the gritty inner city communities to increase and utilize the concept of professional mourners to challenge every police shooting labeling them executions.

The fallout from that is a balkanized police force which understood that officers had no support and were on their own . Many good officers left. Those who stayed dropped their hands. Others simply chose to join the criminals.

So how did we really get here?


After 1962 Jamaica was forced to figure things out for itself. Sure there was remnants of the old colonial past, but as the 70s stepped in most of the white planters had long exited the stage or had simply died out.

Left in their place were the mulattoes and the newly minted educated blacks. 
This band of hypocrites were quite vociferous against the dictates of the colonial masters. However once they became the new backra massa they doubled down on the very same things they criticized the Colonial masters about. The taste of power was way too sweet to be let go , who needed a nation of laws?
Who needed a nation where leaders would be the every-man?

Now that they were the bosses why would they want a professional police force which could hold them accountable?
In fairness to them this was not confined just to Jamaica or even parts of the Caribbean region. Drastic instances of the same abuse of power in parts of Africa after the collapse of the British Empire produced devastating consequences for the people outside the tight spheres of power.  Blacks unaccustomed to power and the trappings in those nations refused  to let go so dictatorships emerged everywhere. So too did they appear in Latin and South America and in parts of Asia.

The newly minted ruling class did not care too much about how many bodies piled up in political battles as long as they could navigate the streets of the city in their ill-gotten darkly tinted cars to their luxurious enclaves in the pristine set-aside communities of Cherry Gardens Norbrook and Jack’s hill.

In Jamaica they maintained a semblance of democracy by holding elections but ensuring that ballot boxes were stuffed with enough votes to guarantee the outcomes they desired.
Not outright dictatorships but a dog of a different name is still a dog.

The thing which irritated me the most about being a police officer there for the decade I served was interacting with the self appointed bourgeois.
Fake accents and the sense that the people who lived just down the road in the ghettos were “other“.
Nothing made me more nauseous than them asking me “where were you trained” when I visited to deal with their reports. As if a Jamaican police officer speaking english and not a broken mix of ebonics and english was an outlier.


Remember that Medellin comparison ?

Colombia could have taken hold of Pablo Escobar , Carlos Lehder and the members of the Medellin cartel long before they got into cocaine production and export.
They could have taken care of the Cali Cartels from the beginning when they started setting up coca plantations and cocaine labs in the jungles of Colombia.
In fact Pablo Escobar was an exporter of uncustomed electronic goods into the country long before he decided to get involved in drugs.
Dirty public officials above the police tied the hands of the Colombian police and gave information about individual officers and their families to ordinary thugs. Police were forced to look away.

Long before the senseless killing of tens of thousands of innocent Colombians, the Colombian Government could have put an end to the shenanigans of those common thugs.

Because of the inaction of the Government. Because of the refusal of the Colombian Government to act for the good of the country.  Even if the many, or even the innocent cannot grasp it conceptually, a nation deserves to have a future, not as a narco state, not as a criminal state.


Many in Colombia were complicit, many were simply trapped,needing a way out.
Many in Jamaica are complicit but as it was in Colombia, so too are many trapped needing a way out.

By Mike Beckles – Check out his blog HERE

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