Jamaica Obsever: KINGSTON, By Jason Cross – The police are reporting a doubling of the number of illegal rifles seized than in the last month. At the same time, murders have declined 21 percent since the start of the year, contributing to a 15 percent reduction in all major crimes.

Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson shared the data during a Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) press briefing Tuesday, the second such event in February, and thanked the island’s security partners for the gains.

“I thank our local and overseas partners for their support and collaboration. When I last addressed you [on February 1] I announced that we had seized 13 rifles. That figure now stands at 28. Overall, we have removed 163 illegal firearms from the hands of criminals, which is an increase of 37 per cent over the same period last year,” Anderson said, while attributing the seizures to the national ‘Get Every Illegal Gun’ campaign launched last month.

Pointing to the Jamaica Customs Agency’s role in the campaign, Anderson said: “On Monday during a non-intrusive inspection process carried out in Montego Bay, St James, the Jamaica Customs Agency identified firearms hidden in a television set. They engaged the police who subsequently seized two rifles, one sub machine gun, four handguns, eight magazines, and 16 rounds of ammunition.

“Also on Monday, we seized an AK-47 rifle with nine rounds of ammunition in St Andrew Central, as well as pistols and ammunition in St Andrew South and St Catherine South police divisions. We continue to seize the primary tools used by gunmen and gangs to inflict death, mayhem, and pain on our society,” said the police chief.

“The JCF continues to place ourselves between criminal gangs and the communities they seek to dominate. These criminals are funding the purchase of these weapons through scamming, the illicit drug trade, as well as extortion. These are not poor, destitute and unattached youth looking for help. They are increasingly wealthy and violent people,” he said, adding that strides are being made to prevent participation in criminal activities.

And although 240 murders were recorded from January 1 up to Tuesday, the commissioner said there was a six percent decline in murders, a 21 percent decline in shootings, a 14 percent reduction in robberies and 44 percent drop in break-ins, which combine for a 15 percent reduction in all major crimes this year, when compared to the comparative period in 2021.

Of the 240 murders, Anderson said 75 percent were gang-related, 12 percent arose from interpersonal disputes, and five per cent were committed in furtherance of other crimes. One percent was mob killing.

“Since the start of 2022 there have been over 11 major drug seizures by the Narcotics Division and the JDF Coast Guard. A combined total of approximately 5,600 pounds of ganja has been seized in these incidents. This has a local street value of $25 million and had it gotten into the US market, the estimated value would be over US$6.6 million. During just one narcotics operation this year, we seized $3.7 million along with US$430 and 134 grams of cocaine,” he said.

“These criminals are not using their ill-gotten gains to improve their communities. They are using their wealth to live lavishly, purchase guns, wage wars against their rivals and destroy lives,” he added.

Anderson, meanwhile, said strides were also being made to improve the process of having the public report wanted men when they are sighted. This, the commissioner said, has led to the apprehension of numerous wanted people.

“In 2021, we launched our ‘Wanted Wednesdays’ social media initiative. At the end of January, we announced the names of 88 most wanted persons across the country. During February, we launched a targeted social media campaign aimed at influencing how the public, particularly women, thought about the reporting of wanted persons.

“Due to the public response, this has led to 11 persons featured in the Wanted Wednesdays campaign last year being taken into custody and one was killed in confrontation with the police. Seventeen of the 88 most wanted published in January have been taken into custody and one was killed during another confrontation with the police,” said Anderson.