World Bank/UN Report reveals…
C'bean murder rate highest in the world

Kaieteur News
May 4, 2007

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Murder rates in the Caribbean are higher than in any other region of the world, and assault rates are significantly above the world average.

This is according to a report ‘Crime, violence and development: trends, cost and policy options in the Caribbean, which was produced by the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The report listed narcotics trafficking as the core of these high rates.

According to figures contained in the report, in the Caribbean the murder rate per 100,000 residents is 30, compared with 26 in South Africa, nine in Central Asia, seven in North America and only one in the Middle East and Southwest Africa.

The trend shows homicide rates are rising over 1990s/early 2000s in most countries in the region, with recent declines in a few countries, like Guyana and Jamaica.

The report suggested that should Caribbean countries reduce the current crime rate by one-third, they can more than double their rates of per capita economic growth.

“Narcotics trafficking diverts criminal justice resources from other important activities, increases and embeds violence, undermines social cohesion, and contributes to the widespread availability of firearms in the region.”

The report, which was released yesterday, stated that high rates of crime and violence in the Caribbean are undermining growth, threatening human welfare, and impeding social development.

It added that crime impacts business and is a major obstacle to investment, and it was pointed out that in many countries, as crime increases, access to financing declines; spending on formal and informal security measures increases; and worker productivity declines.

The World Bank/UNODC Report draws on inputs from governments, civil society organizations, and Caribbean experts, and underscores levels and trends of crime in the Caribbean.

It also presents detailed analyses of some of the most important issues at the national and regional levels; examines risk factors and socio-economic costs associated with the phenomenon; provides information on good practice approaches from other experiences around the world, and offers concrete actions and recommendations on how to prevent crime and violence.

“The report clearly shows that crime and violence are development issues. Donors and OECD countries need to work together with Caribbean countries to reduce the current levels in the region," said Caroline Anstey, World Bank Director for the Caribbean.

"Some of the factors that make the Caribbean most vulnerable to crime and violence -- mainly the drug trade and trafficking of weapons -- require a response that transcends national and even regional boundaries," she added.

"Although there is no one "ideal" approach for crime and violence prevention, interventions such as slum-upgrading projects, youth development initiatives and criminal justice system reform can contribute to reducing crime and violence," said Francis Maertens, UNODC Director, Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs.

The report argues that Caribbean countries are transit points and not producers of cocaine; and interdiction needs to be complemented by other strategies outside the region, principally demand reduction in consumer countries, and eradication and/or alternative development in producer countries.

The trend shows that the share of US-bound cocaine transiting the Caribbean has fallen from 30 percent in 1998 to 12 percent in 2005, but cocaine use in Europe has increased, with potential impacts on trafficking in the Caribbean.

The report added that gun ownership is an outgrowth of the drug trade, and, in some countries, of politics and associated garrison communities.

Although reducing gun ownership is difficult, better gun registries, marking and tracking can help, as can improved gun interdiction in ports, the report stated.

It advised that policies should also focus on limiting the availability of firearms and on providing meaningful alternatives to youth, since they are disproportionately represented both among the victims and perpetrators of violence.

The report stated that deaths and injuries from youth violence constitute a major threat to public health and social and economic progress across the Caribbean, while the use of firearms in criminal acts has increased in several countries in the region.

Although the average Caribbean deportee is not involved in criminal activity, a minority may be causing serious problems, both by direct involvement in crime and by providing a perverse role model for youth.

According to the report, youth violence is a particularly serious problem in the region, and youth homicide rates in several countries of the region are significantly above the world average.

To address issues of youth violence, Caribbean policymakers should invest in programmes that have been shown to be successful in careful evaluations such as: (i) Early childhood development and mentoring programmes; (ii) Interventions to keep high risk youth in secondary schools; and (iii) Opening schools after hours and on weekends, to offer additional activities and training.

The report recommends that more services be offered to reintegrate deportees, with deporting countries contributing to the cost of these programmes.

In general, there is an over-reliance on the criminal justice system to reduce crime in the region.

At the same time, the report stated, it must be recognized that some types of crime, such as organized crime, drug and firearms trafficking, are generally impervious to prevention initiatives; their control requires an efficient criminal justice system.

Urgent priorities for improving the criminal justice system in the region include: the development of management information systems; tracking of justice system performance; monitoring of reform programs, and increased accountability to citizens.

Several countries are increasingly investing in crime prevention, using approaches such as integrated citizen security programmes, crime prevention through environmental design, and a public health approach that focuses on risk factors for violent behaviours.

These alternative approaches have significant potential to generate decreases in both property crime and inter-personal violence.

The study revealed that many of the issues facing the Caribbean transcend national boundaries and require a coordinated regional and international response.

Demand for drugs emanates from Europe and the United States; deportees are sent back to the region from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada; and many weapons that are trafficked are brought from the United States.

It found that while the Caribbean faces serious challenges, especially in the areas of drugs, guns, and youth violence, informed policies at the national, regional and international levels can make a significant difference.