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Kovalski, Serge. 1999 ‘Murder 'Madness' Bedevils Jamaica: Government struggles to curb wave of slayings and address underlying causes.’ Washington Post Foreign Service. Kingston: Washington Post. 27 July

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Overall, 505 people have been slain [in Jamaica] this year, most of them young, unemployed men who belong to heavily armed drug gangs that compete for turf in poor neighborhoods in and around Kingston. A total of 185 people were killed in May and June, most of them in the capital.

During one 17-day stretch running into July, 66 victims - including an elderly woman shot in the head by robbers and three young girls who were raped - were felled in bloodshed that sent dozens of panicked residents fleeing their inner-city homes. Some sought refuge inside police stations, where they set up makeshift camps.

Jamaica has had one of the highest murder rates in the world for years - ranking third after South Africa and Brazil in the latest U.N. estimates - despite its reputation as a happy-go-lucky island of sun, sand and reggae. But the latest spasm is viewed as a particularly acute symptom of the seemingly intractable problems that darken the future of this nation of 2.6 million people.

Island of Crime

Jamaica, long known as a country with high crime rates, recently has seen the number of murders rise again. Among the suspected killers are many Jamaicans deported from the United States for criminal offenses there.

Murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants

Fiscal year - Jamaica - D.C. - U.S.

1996 - 35.6 - 73.1 - 7.4
1997 - 39.9 - 56.9 - 6.8
1998 - 36.8 - 49.7 - NA

Total number of homicides

Year - Jamaica - D.C. - U.S.

1996 - 925 - 397 - 19,645
1997 - 1,038 - 301 - 18,209
1998 - 953 - 260 - NA
1999* - 505 - 11 - NA

Jamaicans deported from the United States

Year - Total - Criminal reasons - Non-criminal reasons

1996 - 1,184 - 1,009 - 175
1997 - 1,789 - 1,228 - 561
1998- 1,805 - 1,196 - 609

Homicide victims killed by a firearm per 100,000 population in 1997

South Africa - 26.63
Brazil - 25.78
Jamaica - 18.23
U.S. - 6.24
Estonia - 6.12

SOURCE: Jamaican police, U.S. Embassy, D.C. police, United Nations

* Through June.

[Editor's note: Original article published in the Washington Post, 27 July 1999:
http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/news/4907]

ID: Q11082

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