9 Apr 2011

Murder rate drops in Jamaica

6:08 am on 9 April 2011

Jamaica claims its lowering the country's murder rate, one of the highest in the world.

The government said there has been a 44% drop in the number of killings in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2010.

It said its policy of saturating gang-dominated areas with police and soldiers was succeeding.

But human rights groups say extra-judicial killings and other abuses by security forces have increased.

Police statistics showed there were 238 murders during the first three months of 2011 compared to 426 during the same period in 2010.

In central and western areas of the capital, Kingston, the murder rate was down 60%.

National Security Minister Dwight Nelson said the fall in the murder rate was the result of a strategy of confronting criminal gangs in their strongholds.

Deputy police commissioner Glenmore Hinds said security forces were eroding the influence of violent criminal gangs who until recently controlled some parts of Kingston.

The police and army began a major crackdown on criminal gangs in May last year during their pursuit of a suspected drugs lord, Christopher "Dudus" Coke.

More than 70 people were killed in clashes before Mr Coke was captured and extradited to the United States.

Jamaica has a population of just under three million people.