More Caribbean News

Jamaica Responds to Rising Violence With Security Crackdown

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Jamaica’s latest urban security operation has rounded up nearly 200 suspects in an attempt to “cauterize” rising rates of insecurity, but the aggressive approach may be counterproductive to the fight against organized crime. Jamaica’s National Security Minister Robert Montague announced on January 23 that authorities had made 197 arrests in St. James parish, home to the tourist hub of Montego Bay, during a combined military-police operation that followed the declaration last week of a state of public emergency, the Jamaica Gleaner reported. Among those arrested, Montague said that 10 were wanted for serious crimes, including murder, and another 83 are “strongly believed to be connected to gangs in the parish.” Two men wanted on criminal charges in the United States were detained and are expected to be deported. The state of emergency declared in St. James gave security forces the power to arrest individuals without obtaining a warrant, which some residents and legal experts told the Jamaica Gleaner has filled up local jails where conditions are already poor. Legal experts have also raised concerns about slow processing times and restricted access to legal counsel for detainees. Following the wave of arrests, Jamaica’s Justice Minister Delroy Chuck announced that a special tribunal will be established to hear appeals by or on behalf of those detained under the powers granted to security forces by the state of emergency. Despite past criticism of the use of states of emergency, officials said the operation in St. James had public support. “We asked for and are getting unprecedented support from the public,” Montague said in comments reported by the Miami Herald. “We ask that members of the public continue to flood us with information. Tell us where the guns are! Tell us where the gunmen, lotto scammers and criminals are.” In addition to St. James, operations were launched in the parishes of St. Ann, St. Mary and Westmoreland, as well as targeted raids in St. Catherine.

InSight Crime Analysis

As Jamaica’s security situation continues to deteriorate at the start of 2018 following a dramatic increase in homicides last year, the government’s decision to double down on heavy-handed operations could exacerbate the island nation’s problems with organized crime. Security Minister Montague has admitted that the strategy of declaring states of emergency “is not a panacea” or a “cure-all.” Instead, he said that the deployment of security forces and waves of arrests are “meant to cauterize the situation, while providing the space for other sustainable interventions.”

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Security Policy

However, in practice, Jamaica’s security crackdown launched late last year has been marred by rushed implementation, at times based on unreliable information, which has raised questions about its effectiveness. As InSight Crime has reported, these operations may also be shifting attention away from important steps to prevent crime, such as the country’s initiative to seize illegal weapons and provide social programs for at-risk youths. The recent wave of arrests in St. James points to additional concerns, including the potential overburdening of jails and courts with youths swept up in high numbers during operations. This could lead to more young people spending time in jails, which could provide gangs with recruitment opportunities.

Takedown of Puerto Rico Crime Group Could Spur Struggle to Fill Power Vacuum

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US authorities announced drug-related charges on January 18 against 104 alleged members of a Puerto Rico crime group, in a move that could leave a power vacuum in the US territory’s underworld, possibly paving the way for an uptick in violence on the island. The defendants, all allegedly belonging to the “Menores,” or “New Blood” gang, were charged on nine counts including drug dealing and murder. The indictment alleges that the Menores gang took root in Bayamón, a municipality southwest of the Puerto Rican capital San Juan, after federal authorities arrested a slew of other gang leaders in 2010. Authorities say the organization sold drugs out of the housing projects and wards in Bayamón and the surrounding areas. Federal officials added that the Menores used the US mail system to launder drug profits through the purchase of US Postal Service money orders. The indictment comes on the heels of the high-profile arrest and later conviction of Puerto Rican drug kingpin José David Figueroa Agosto, aka “Junior Cápsula,” who was sentenced to 30 years in a US prison last August. Junior Cápsula’s colorful drug trafficking career — which included a publicly released sex tape and a prison break — earned him the title of “Pablo Escobar of the Caribbean.” Puerto Rico is a strategic point for drug trafficking routes because once inside the US territory, illegal shipments of narcotics that move between the island and the US mainland are subject to less restrictive inspection than imports from foreign countries.

InSight Crime Analysis

The fall of Junior Cápsula — once considered among the most powerful drug traffickers in the Caribbean — along with the disruption of the activities of other gangs operating in the San Juan area likely laid the groundwork for the Menores rise to prominence. Now, the move against the Menores’ leadership could create a similar power vacuum, potentially leading to an increase in drug-related violence as a new cohort of Puerto Rican drug lords vies for control.

SEE ALSO: Caribbean News and Profile

Indeed, the island saw an increase in drug-related violence after Junior Cápsula’s arrest as homicide rates soared to record levels in 2011. Now that Puerto Rican police and security forces are still grappling with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, organized crime outfits could seize the moment to shore up power. Thirty-two people were slain on the island in the first two weeks of 2018, the Associated Press reported. The Caribbean has seen rising rates of drug trafficking linked to a boom in cocaine production in Colombia, with homegrown criminal cells moving to assert dominance over routes previously controlled by foreign crime groups.

What Is Missing From Police Crime Statistics?

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When it comes to understanding crime and violence, police records only tell us half the story (literally). But to design effective crime prevention and reduction policies we need the other half. While an important source, police statistics only capture a portion of crimes due to under-reporting and under-recording.[1] In the case of the Caribbean, the most prevalent crimes are the most underreported (assault and threat) and the most vulnerable victims (women and youth) are the least likely to report. This can lead policymakers to make poor decisions regarding policies and the allocation of resources. Victimization surveys enable us to measure the phenomenon from a primary source — the victims themselves — but such surveys are conducted less frequently in the Caribbean than in many other world regions.

*This article was originally published by Caribbean DevTrends, a blog hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and is reposted with permission. It does not necessarily reflect the views of InSight Crime. See the original here.

The recent IDB publication Restoring Paradise in the Caribbean: Combating Violence with Numbers examines the crimes that are not reported to the police according to victimization surveys of individuals and businesses. This blog post will give you a glimpse of the other half of the story.

How Many Crimes Go Unreported?

On average, 47 percent of crimes went unreported to the police in the Caribbean. Meaning that for every 10 crimes that happen, we only “know” of five. This has enormous policy implications.  The highest reporting rates were found in New Providence, The Bahamas and the lowest in Kingston, Jamaica (39 percent) and Bridgetown, Barbados (43 percent). Reporting is close to the international average (49 percent), significantly higher than in Latin American capital cities (35 percent) for all five crimes examined here (car theft, burglary, robbery, theft of personal property, and assaults and threats).[2] Only 46 percent of crimes against businesses were reported to the police, with lower reporting in Belize (20 percent) and Barbados (24 percent).

Which Crimes Don’t Get Reported?

Similar to other countries around the world, crime reporting to the police in the Caribbean is highest for car theft (84 percent) and burglary (70 percent) and lower for assaults (48 percent) and threats (37 percent).[3] More severe crimes that involved a weapon, or where medical services were sought, were more likely to be reported. Violent crimes were also more likely to be reported if there were two offenders and if the offender was a stranger rather than someone known to the victim.

Who Is Less Likely to Report?

Female, youth and single individuals were all less likely to report violent crimes to the police, especially when the victim was known to the offender. Only 45 percent of violent crimes (robbery, assault and threat) committed against women were reported, compared to 54 percent of those with male victims. Note that this figure does not include domestic and sexual violence, which generally have far lower reporting rates and are better measured through other survey methodologies. Young victims (18-24) only reported to the police in 41 percent of cases of violent crime.

Policy Implications

Studying the amount of crimes that go unreported can help us understand trust in the police and community-police relations. Increasing reporting rates also stand to help improve community safety and the equity of the criminal justice system. But most importantly, if we rely only on police statistics to understand crime, we are making policy based on only half the story. Entire groups at risk of victimization may be unknown and not taken into account. The most problematic crimes may not be those that appear in police statistics. Victimization surveys and other sources of data (i.e. health data from hospitals, school violence data, etc.) are essential to helping complete the picture and developing more nuanced crime control and prevention policies.
[1] Under-reporting is the result of citizens not reporting crimes to the police, while under-recording is when certain crimes are not registered by the police. [2] Comparative results on reporting rates from the International Crime Victimization Survey database per world region are provided in the report Appendix 1.2. [3] For details on both the percentage and number of individuals reporting for the five types of crime, see Appendix 1.1 of the report. *This article was originally published by Caribbean DevTrends, a blog hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and is reposted with permission. It does not necessarily reflect the views of InSight Crime. See the original here.

The Perfect Storm: How Climate Change Exacerbates Crime and Insecurity in LatAm

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A series of high-impact hurricanes in the Caribbean and earthquakes in Mexico have caused serious devastation, serving as a stark reminder of the impacts that climate change and sudden natural disasters can have on organized crime and security.

InSight Crime dove deeper into the relationship between climate and crime in an interview with Oliver Leighton Barrett, a retired Navy lieutenant who has worked with the Pentagon on efforts to assess the security implications of climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean.*

InSight Crime: How can sudden and extreme natural events — such as the hurricanes that have recently swept through the Caribbean or the earthquakes in Mexico — affect crime and security?

Oliver Leighton Barrett: In post-disaster situations there is often a breakdown in governance and institutions, even if only temporarily. This means the bad guys are going to have room to play. There will be a vacuum that they can exploit. When security forces are concentrated on disaster response and rescue efforts, they don’t have time to focus on the criminal element, whether that be opportunists or organized crime groups.

A very recent example of this came in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Saint Martin, a small island state that’s divided into two with a Dutch and a French side, was decimated by the storm. When the winds subsided, looters started robbing stores and homes, and there was impunity. The security forces had been ordered not to focus on the looters, but on saving lives.

That caused a lot of upset among the population because their property was being stolen. But officials had to prioritize how to use their limited security resources. And when you have a one-two punch like some countries have experienced with successive hurricanes, it is just going to take that much longer for the government to get back on its feet.

(Video courtesy of Al Jazeera English)

IC: What kind of capacity do countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have to maintain security in the wake of a disaster or climate change-linked environmental degradation?

OLB: When it comes to weak or failed states, they have zero or very little resilience and are unable to bounce back from stressors. These vulnerable societies are definitely not ready for fast-moving phenomena like hurricanes and earthquakes, and they lag behind when it comes to addressing the degradation caused by climate change effects like drought and food shortages and its impacts on their societies.

When you have weak or corrupt institutions and security forces, any kind of stressor or shock to the system can cause the safety net to fail. In these situations, the organized crime element is already there and they’re going to take advantage of it. If the criminal element is stronger than the security forces, if the criminal element has more money and can buy off politicians, you have a recipe for disaster.

IC: How do organized crime groups take advantage of climate-related insecurity?

OLB: What’s lost on a lot of people is that the effects of extreme weather events and climate-related food and water shortages present an opportunity for organized crime groups to step in where the government is unable to provide an adequate level of support.

Whereas bureaucracy makes states slow to respond, organized crime groups are often decentralized, which allows them to more quickly take advantage of a situation like a post-hurricane scenario or even a slow-moving drought scenario.

IC: In a previous interview, we discussed a case in Honduras following a devastating 2010 hurricane. In the wake of the disaster, the Cachiros crime group monopolized on the relief effort to launder an estimated $6.4 million of illegal earnings. Are there other examples of organized crime groups profiting by exploiting humanitarian and relief efforts?

OLB: One example outside of Latin America is Somalia where militias commandeered food supplies, distributed them to their in-group and earned a profit, while large swathes of the population were starved to death. These crime groups had the guns, so they ran things. It wasn’t until international forces came in that the situation was stabilized and people were able to get humanitarian aid.

“The effects of extreme weather events and [climate change] present an opportunity for organized crime groups.”

IC: In addition to the risks related to fast-moving weather events like hurricanes, slow-moving climate change impacts are also exacerbating insecurity and fueling organized crime in countries like Venezuela and Brazil. And in Central America, prolonged droughts associated with climate change have displaced populations from rural areas to cities where crime is already concentrated. What are some of the impacts of this type of climate change-related migration on organized crime?

OLB: One danger of climate change impacts in Central America is that internal migration within countries often leads to the recruitment of young men into criminal organizations.

Farmers are leaving land that is no longer productive to go somewhere else. But what happens to young men who no longer have a productive path forward, whether it is on the farm or in the city? They are going to be ripe to be recruited into criminal organizations, whether cartels or human smuggling networks, that can pay them something and give them a sense of status and pride that they don’t have starving on a farm.

IC: How can the international community help Latin America and the Caribbean to build their resilience to climate change and natural disasters?

OLB: The best way that the US government and the international community can help weak states to mitigate these problems and become more resilient is by advising and assisting governments to strengthen their institutions and address corruption. The United States is already working on these issues, but the resources provided to these initiatives could perhaps be more robust.

IC: What can countries in Latin America and the Caribbean do to mitigate the impacts of climate change and sudden disasters given resource constraints and existing security struggles?

OLB: The first thing governments need to do is take climate change seriously. There are changes, whatever causes you attribute them to, and states need to build more resiliency to both fast-moving events and the slow-moving impacts of climate change.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Security Policy

Just from an economic standpoint, countries should be trying to get ahead of climate change impacts, particularly sea level rise. A lot of states in Latin America and the Caribbean rely heavily on tourism, particularly tied to beaches and cruise lines. When you don’t have any more beaches due to beach erosion, the coral reefs are gone due to rising water temperatures and no one wants to swim there anymore, it really impacts your bottom line.

Countries should also be having conversations about how to reinforce infrastructure and enforce building codes that could prevent, for example, deaths caused by mudslides or the recent total power outage in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Irma.

Many Caribbean countries are beginning to discuss how to prepare for these events, but the resources are missing.

* This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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Jamaica’s New Security Plan Off to Inauspicious Beginning

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Based on erroneous and false information, the Jamaican government has launched a new initiative to corral criminal groups in what is possibly the wrong urban zone, residents of the area claim. 

Mount Salem residents said the police furnished Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the government’s top security agency — the National Security Council (NSC) — with incorrect data about murders and gang presence in their neighborhood in the St. James parish, The Jamaica Gleaner reported. The residents said there were 4, not 12 gangs, and that it had seen 12 murders this year, not the 54 the police claimed.

The distinction is critical. Holness presented the police’s data on September 1, to justify making Mount Salem the first Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO), reported the Jamaica Observer. The police has since admitted that it made a mistake with the data, but the government has continued with its plan, which allows authorities to designate a violent neighborhood as a ZOSO and deploy a joint police-military force. The joint force has the authority to conduct searches without warrants for 60 days, and is supposedly followed up by social and community programs meant to prevent crime.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Security Policy

The NSC argued that “the nature of the error would not have affected the decision of the NSC, as it was limited to only one of the factors used to determine the zone,” according to The Jamaica Gleaner. At the same time, the NSC called on the police to “review their systems of data collection, collation and reporting.”

InSight Crime Analysis

Amid high levels of homicides, Jamaican authorities appear more pressed to take action than take a careful, studied approach to citizen security. In this case, they implemented their plan in reverse order. The government’s first priority should be clearly defining the hot spots. That way, they will know how and what resources they will need to deploy. Instead, they moved on data that was wrong on not one, but two factors: homicides and the number of operational criminal groups.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Caribbean

Despite claims by the prime minister that “the next zone of special operations will be declared based on careful intelligence and planning,” trust with the community will be hard to rebuild. To be sure, the decision to maintain the ZOSO in Mount Salem even after having to publicly admit its error, illustrates that the government is ready to adapt the reality to match the policy rather than the other way around.

Trafficking Routes Up for Grabs After Fall of Top Caribbean Drug Kingpin

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The man who was once considered the most powerful drug kingpin in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico has been convicted and sentenced to decades in a US prison, raising questions as to who will step up to take control over the growing drug trade in this small but important trafficking corridor.

José David Figueroa Agosto, a Puerto Rican known by the alias “Junior Cápsula,” was sentenced to 30 years in prison on drug trafficking charges, local media reported on August 8. The sentence was handed down by a US federal judge in May as part of a plea agreement, but relevant court documents had been sealed until recently.

A 2010 indictment charged Figueroa Agosto with shipping approximately 3 metric tons of Colombian cocaine between 2000 and 2001. His organization is thought to have controlled up to 90 percent of narcotics trafficking through the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico at the height of his power. This led the Puerto Rican — who enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, using various false identities and even resorting to plastic surgery to evade capture — to eventually be dubbed the “Pablo Escobar of the Caribbean.”

According to the indictment, Figueroa Agosto would acquire Colombian cocaine and ship it either straight from Colombia or through neighboring Venezuela to Puerto Rico. A US Justice Department press release indicates that his group also dealt with heroin, and at times used private yachts to ship millions in cash earned from drug sales back to the Dominican Republic.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Dominican Republic

Earlier in his career in the drug business, Figueroa Agosto murdered an individual he believed had stolen cocaine, a crime for which he was sentenced to more than 200 years in prison in 1995. But four years later, the Puerto Rican national walked out of prison through the front door with a forged release permit, most likely with help from colluding guards.

Figueroa Agosto twice more secured his release in the Dominican Republic, supposedly by bribing officials, before his final arrest in Puerto Rico in 2010. Rumours swirled that he may even have bribed a presidential candidate. And in 2015, Figueroa Agosto’s defense attorney was sentenced to nearly six years in prison on money laundering charges. The US Justice Department asserts the attorney bribed Puerto Rican officials with drug money, in the hope of obtaining the nullification of the original murder sentence.

InSight Crime Analysis

Beyond his colorful story, Figueroa Agosto is one of the rare examples of a homegrown Caribbean kingpin. As the region’s importance as a drug transit point has grown, his demise raises questions about the future of the criminal landscape in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, two of the Caribbean’s main drug trafficking hubs.

The volume of narcotics transiting through the region reportedly tripled between 2009 and 2014, while a series of multi-ton seizures in 2017 support official estimates that this upward trend has continued. Today, the Dominican Republic sees an estimated 120 metric tons of cocaine transiting through the country each year. Furthermore, the Caribbean’s role in the US market also appears to have grown over the past few years. In 2012, only 5 percent of drugs reaching the United States reportedly passed through the Caribbean; by 2015 this figure reached 13 percent.

SEE ALSO: Caribbean News and Profile

No single major criminal figure has publicly emerged in the Dominican Republic since the days of Figueroa. But during recent field research to the country InSight Crime learned that local groups were assuming greater control of drug routes. This would represent an empowerment of homegrown criminal cells in a country that has traditionally come under the influence of Colombian and Mexican crime syndicates. It could also represent a potential impetus for conflict, if these local groups resort to violence in attempting to maintain or expand their operations.

Furthermore, analysts have suggested that corrupt government elements — particularly the military and police — have gradually stepped up their role in the drug trade from acting as facilitators to becoming traffickers in their own right. In 2015, top officials of the Dominican anti-narcotics police were accused of stealing over a ton of seized cocaine, and authorities suggested that up to 90 percent of organized crime related cases could involve collusion by security forces.

With global cocaine production estimated to be at historic levels, the flow of drugs, money and weapons through the Dominican Republic and its Caribbean neighbors looks poised to grow. The DEA’s Caribbean Division has also confirmed to InSight Crime that laboratories producing the powerful opioid fentanyl have been discovered on the island, potentially representing a new phenomenon in this traditional transit hub.

Haiti’s Revived Military Could Pose More Security Risks Than Solutions

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Haiti is reconstituing its previously disbanded army after more than two decades, amid concerns about growing insecurity as a United Nations peacekeeping force is set to withdraw later this year. And while politicians have justified the move as a step toward combating contraband trafficking, the real motivations behind the decision may be political.

The recruitment effort for the new army was announced by the Defense Ministry in early July and has seen more than 2,200 candidates sign up in the first round, reported Haiti Libre. Due to budget constraints, the force will have fewer than 500 members.

Defense Minister Hervé Denis said the army’s mission would be to fight against contraband smuggling and provide relief in case of natural disasters, according to the Miami Herald. The minister argued that the cost of the force will be outweighed by its impact on smuggling from the Dominican Republic, which he estimated causes lost tax revenues for Haiti of between $200 million and $500 million per year.

However, critics have said that the recruitment process has lacked transparency and has been conducted in the absence of a command structure for the force, reported AlterPresse.

Others have questioned the logic of investing in an army instead of dedicating increased resources to Haiti’s 15,000-strong National Police. An August 2016 report by the UN Secretary General noted significant shortcomings in planned improvements to the force, including ramping up its border control capabilities.

InSight Crime Analysis

Several experts consulted by InSight Crime raised concerns about the potential efficacy of the army in terms of the proposed anti-contraband efforts, while pointing to possible political motivations for re-establishing the force. And all warned of the risk that the violent and abusive history of Haiti’s military repeat itself.

“Sending a poorly-trained, underpaid military to the border to confront a massive corruption scheme appears destined for failure,” said Jake Johnston, a research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) who has done extensive research and reporting on Haiti.

Indeed, an inadequate fiscal framework and corruption within an inefficient customs agency are the two primary drivers of contraband along the border — not the lack of a military presence.

“The push to restore the military is not a rational one based on Haiti’s needs, but an ideological one,” he told InSight Crime. 

“This is a party with close connections to the old Duvalierist and militarist clique that had ruled Haiti for decades and whose power and influence was threatened by previous governments. It would be difficult for the government to turn its back on its source of power now that it is in office,” the CEPR researcher said, referring to the governments of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude, also known as “Baby Doc.” The authoritarian political dynasty, which lasted from the 1950s to the 1980s, was associated with the use of armed forces as a tool of political repression — a fact that contributed to the decision of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to disband the army in 1995.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Haiti

Johnston’s comments echoed those of Brian Concannon, the executive director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti advocacy organization.

“I have seen nothing that would indicate that the army would do a better job of policing the borders or responding to natural disasters than civilian police,” Concannon said.

He added that other examples of militarized security initiatives across the Americas suggest a better course of action may be to strengthen the civilian police rather than create a new, military institution.

“That is especially true considering the Haitian army’s history of corruption and professional misconduct,” the human rights advocate told InSight Crime.

Concannon also pointed to political motives at play, arguing the army would help the government “exert control over its political opponents,” evidenced by “the initial army proposal of [former] President [Michel] Martelly that specifically included spying on journalists and others, to the current efforts to recruit soldiers before there is even much structure.”

Interestingly, both Concannon and Johnston noted underlying socioeconomic factors behind the public’s support for the army and the seemingly widespread interest in the recruitment effort.

“This has gained some additional traction because of the high level of youth unemployment, where any opportunity for steady pay is welcome. Also, given the high proportion of Haiti’s population which is quite young, many lack the historical experience that others have of the Haitian military and its repressive actions,” Johnston explained.

“People are signing up because they are desperate for jobs and meaning,” Concannon added, and warned that “once [members of the new army] have the position, they will do what they need to do to preserve that status.”

Jamaica to Initiate Security Crackdown as Murders Surge

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Jamaica has passed a law allowing the army and police to launch special operations in crime hotspots following a spike in murders, but this aggressive security strategy shifts away from more preventive measures and may facilitate security force abuses.

On July 19, Jamaica enacted the Zones of Special Operation (ZOSO) Act, which gives the Prime Minister the power to declare special operation zones in areas identified as having high crime rates, gang presence and violence on the advice of the National Security Council, the Jamaica Gleaner reported

After the zones are established, a joint command of police and military forces will have the authority to establish a “cordon around or within the Zone” for no longer than 24 hours, or a “curfew … not exceeding 72 hours,” during which citizens must stay inside their homes. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Security Policy

Additionally, the joint force “may search any place, vehicle or person within a Zone, without a warrant” if there is suspicion that a crime has been or may be committed. During the searches, authorities can seize any “vehicle, article or document” that may be “of substantial value” in an investigation, with few exceptions.

While conducting operations in these designated zones, agents must register all weapons with the National Security Ministry and are required to wear body cameras. 

Some of the ZOSO Act’s measures also focus on improving social issues. After a special zone has been declared, the Prime Minister will establish a Social Intervention Committee to assess the area’s needs, create a socio-economic development plan and help implement government intervention programs.

InSight Crime Analysis

With Jamaica’s murder rate on track to hit a seven-year high, the country seems to be caught in between two different security strategies. On one hand, social programs including educational courses for at-risk students, or law enforcement initiatives such as the “Get the Guns” campaign launched in 2015 to intercept illegal firearms, address some of the root causes of growing insecurity.

But while the ZOSO Act does include preventive measures, it is also a shift towards more aggressive tactics, including the deployment of the military onto the streets. The use of excessive force by Jamaican security forces is already a serious problem, and the new law may well facilitate future human rights abuses against civilians.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Jamaica

Canute Thompson, the head of the Caribbean Centre for Educational Planning, has described the new security measures as “outdated,” simply providing “Band-Aid therapy” to vulnerable areas rather than representing a “sustainable reduction” plan.

Guyana Prison Riot, Fire Create Major Security Headache

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A massive prison riot that occurred in Guyana’s capital this past weekend could have serious ramifications on the country’s overall security situation, while also underscoring well-known flaws with the region’s prison systems. 

On July 9, inmates set the Camp Street prison in Georgetown ablaze in an orchestrated jail break that resulted in the destruction of the entire facility and left two prisoners wounded, one police officer dead, and three inmates on the run, reported Caribbean360.

While the remainder of the prison’s 1,000 inmates were temporarily evacuated to the Lusignan Prison on the outskirts of the city, authorities are still attempting to figure out a permanent housing solution for the prisoners. 

According to Public Security Minister Khemjar Ramjattan, the government has secured the transfer of only 300 inmates to other prisons, with the remaining 700 yet to be permanently accommodated.

“[We] have a big crisis on our hands,” he said.

To make security matters worse, the prison fire resulted in the destruction of thousands of conviction records and warrants, which prisons are required to be in possession of under Guyana law in order to maintain inmates in custody, as reported by the Guyana Guardian

As a result — and given the nonexistence of fingerprints, photographic data, or other evidence to fairly determine who was or was not convicted — the government may be forced to release as many as 500 convicts. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The destructive riot in Guyana’s Camp Street prison serves as an illustrative example of how prison systems in the Caribbean are just as susceptible to the systemic infrastructure and overcrowding problems that plague those in the rest of the region.  

Authorities in Guyana were previously aware of the security flaws associated with this prison. Just last year, a similar fiery prison riot there left 17 inmates dead and at least five injured. 

SEE ALSO: The Prison Dilemma in the Americas

At the time, the prison was already overcrowded, housing approximately 984 inmates in a facility made for 600. Now that the country’s largest prison has been destroyed, overcrowding in the rest of the country’s prisons is likely to be exacerbated, as authorities scramble to find locations to house the displaced inmates. 

Moreover, if the government is, in fact, forced to release a large number of the inmates, the influx of convicts to society is likely to present yet another security headache for a country that has shown a lack of capacity in fighting organized crime on its own and that has previously been referred to as a “narco-state.”

The latest crime and safety report by the US State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council refers to Guyana as a “critical threat location for crime.”