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Crime and Violence: Impact on the Jamaican Business Sector
Published: Monday, June 7, 2010 8:23:14 AM

Crime and Violence: Impact on the Jamaican Business Sector

Published in The Mico University College Journal of Education, Vol. 3, March 2010.

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Andrea Baldwin, PhD

Dean, College of Business and Hospitality Management

Northern Caribbean University


Crime and violence involves the intent or use of psychological and physical force or power against oneself or another to do harm (Hoffman, 2009). Jamaica is a country plagued by crime and violence, especially in urban areas.  Jamaica since 1977 has become the Caribbean nation with the highest homicide rate in its citizenry and continues to hold this position (Harriott, 2007).  Harriott added that in 2007, Jamaica had 59 murders among every 100,000 citizens while Barbados, the Caribbean nation with the lowest crime rate, had less than 10/100,000.  In 2007 in Jamaica, there were 1,574 homicides which increased to 1,611 in 2008 and in 2009 to 1,680.      

In a global context, the Commonwealth Caribbean region is reported by the World Health Organization (2007) as having the highest homicide rate in the world. Jamaica in this regional and global context has qualified itself as a high violence society having a subculture of violence (Harriott, 2007).  This subculture of violence in Jamaica has been characterized by a sustained homicide rate of 20 for every 100,000 citizens for not less than 10 consecutive years.  Jamaica has sustained this pattern over the past 20 years and is described as one of three such countries since the Post-World War II era – S. Africa, Columbia, Jamaica. According to Lewis (2010) Jamaica is now experiencing a G-culture challenge characterized by a dangerous combination of guns, gangs, grand money and girls to which Jamaican men gravitate.


In the business sector there are numerous reports of extortion and illegal protection schemes. Where business operators resist, they become potential victims. This situation presents a hostile national business climate where many business operators are fearful for their lives and the well-being of their businesses. Safety issues are significantly impacting on levels of productivity.


Problem Statement

In the face of this subculture of violence, if business operators are being affected by crime and violence, this problem needs to be urgently addressed so as to remove or reduce fear from the citizenry and increase productivity.



Given this background of a crime and violence ridden macro-economic environment, this investigation was designed to explore the extent to which business operators were being affected by crime and violence across South Central Jamaica in the parishes of St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth.


Research Questions

The research questions in this investigation were as follows:

1.    What was the profile of business operators who were being affected by crime and violence?

2.    What was the nature of the impact of crime and violence on these business operators?

3.    Who should work to solve this problem?

4.    What suggestions did business operators have for solving crime and violence?


Significance of Study


This investigation is considered significant in expanding the growing body of knowledge on the impact of crime and violence in the business sector. In addition, this study is one in several being undertaken by concerned citizens to galvanize a support base for helping to effect change and adding to the voice of urgency for action to reduce this social decadence.


Contributory Factors to a Subculture of Violence


According to Guerra (2009), there is no single cause or treatment of crime.  Among the many contributing factors are a search for self identity and self esteem and a lack of knowledge of problem solving skills. For example, in the face of a deficiency of rational and diplomatic negotiation skills as well as a need to maintain power (McCelland, 1961) and control over the transaction, violence and crime may result. Added to these factors is the influence of ‘don-manism’ and jungle justice (Harriott, 2008). In Jamaica, in  particular, there are ghettos affiliated to political parties and the presence of over 168 organized gangs across the island.  Coupled with these challenges are economic frustration and lack of opportunities.  Such conditions naturally lead to negative thinking and nihilism, revenge, more crime, more violence thus aggravating a continuous downward moral spiral.


Realities of Crime and Violence


There are different types of violence namely pathological, interpersonal and predatory and one sad reality of crime and violence, according to Guerra (2009) is that violence works! She states further that violence is adaptable and the “most powerful’ person will use it to solve his/her problems.  It also co-opts the resources of others and serves as a defence mechanism in the protection of self and property.   A violent disposition can start from birth as evidenced by anger and aggression in infancy which signal discomfort.  Since violence can be learned from infancy and, since violence is learned over time, across multiple settings, children need to be exposed to peaceful situations. As stated by de Quervan et al., (2004) there seems to be a neural basis for punishment.  Some people derive satisfaction from revenge.  However, others are disposed to cooperation, reconciliation and peace-making. Even in the most depressed and marginalized situations, many persons will act peacefully (Guerra, 2009).  Could it be therefore that one’s dispositions to crime and violence largely impinges on a prosocial versus aggressive orientation?



Challenges to adequate intervention


In the cases of Columbia, Peru, Nicaragua and other South and Central American countries, several problems have been identified that are impacting on crime fighting initiatives (Gutierrez, 2009). Among these challenges are different reporting mechanisms for homicides between police and medical sources,   lack of political will, insufficient capacity building and follow-up of policies as well as inadequate surveillance systems.  Is this also true of Jamaica?  Such challenges are definitely operational in Jamaica. For example, there is the significant challenge of corruption, greed and disloyalty in the police force (Luton, 2010).  Therefore, when in need, who protects the citizen? To whom does the citizen report crime and violence if the protective agencies are themselves involved in undermining the system?  




For this investigation, a survey approach  was used to collect data on a  purposive sample of business practitioners (n=107) in the South Central parishes of St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth.  The instrument for data collection was a mixed method questionnaire and the data was analysed using SPSS. 


Findings and Discussions

Of the 107 business operators who participated in this investigation, the gender distribution revealed that

 55.1% of them were males and 44.9% were females (n=107).   As shown in Figure 1, over 56% of these business operators were sole proprietors while 26% were in partnerships and 18% operated companies.  Nearly half (42%) the number of these business practitioners have been in business between 1-5 years. Twenty one percent (21%) of them have been in business between 6-10 years, 18.7% between 11-15 years and 16.8% for over 16 years (see Table 1).  Sixty nine percent (69%) of these business operators hired 1-5 employees, 11% had 6-10 employees, 8% had 11-20 employees and 12%  had over 21 employees (see Figure 2).

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Figure 1.  Types of businesses

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Table 1.  Number of Years in Business

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Figure 2. Number of employees among businesses

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Table 2.

When business practitioners were asked to state whether or not they had been approached by unlawful persons and money demanded from them for business protection, the response was varied.  A little over 22% of them stated that they had been approached by unlawful persons and an equal number stated that persons demanded protection money.  Over 54.2% of respondents stated that they knew of persons who had been so approached.  A significant percentage (77.6%) of business operators stated that they had not encountered any of these experiences.

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Figure 3. Persons responsible for dealing with crime and violence

It was significant that when asked who should be responsible for dealing with crime and violence, 78% of respondents stated that each citizen was responsible compared to 18% for politicians. Less than 10% of respondents ascribed responsibility to parents (see Figure 3).  As shown in Figure 4, forty two (42%) of all business operators stated that crime and violence had contributed to a loss of business revenue.  Some responses given were: “Thieves plaguing my premises, breaking into it;” “I am unable to open my business during late hours, as I am fearful of gunmen.” 

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Figure 4.  Effect of crime and violence on business practitioners

Thirty five percent (35%) of  them expressed fear/anxiety for their lives and livelihood. They shared comments such as: “I am affected by people coming to my yard and stealing my clothes off the line.” “Crime and violence has affected me mentally in the sense that it has become my major concern.”  “I fear most of all for my children who go out to school each day. This affects me terribly as a minute late, makes me frightened and terrified.”


Despite being fearful and suffering from loss of ‘psychological’ and physical freedom of movement (12%), these business operators have found ways to cope by taking precautions (28.7%), keep going despite the situation (28.7%) and by praying and depending on God’s protection (22%).  Although a small percentage, it should be noted that at least 2% of business operators were not coping.  It is noteworthy that although 78% of business operators stated that each citizen was responsible for dealing with crime and violence, when asked how to address the issue of crime and violence, 62% stated that government through an enforced legal, punitive and justice system should be primarily in charge of addressing the issue.  Over 20% stated that more education and jobs should be provided especially for young people.  Given that over 20% of business operators have been faced with extortion and over 58% of persons known to them have been approached, this is a matter that needs urgent redress.


Conclusions and Recommendations

Since such a large percentage of this sample is being affected personally as well as their livelihood, it is essential that as a nation, as a community, as individuals, urgent action be taken to arrest this problem.  Harriott (2008) stated we are currently at the crossroads where as a nation, we can reverse the subculture of crime that is fast enveloping Jamaica.  It is essential that individuals begin to empower themselves psychologically and physically. 


Business operators and the ordinary citizen alike, need to learn how to manage fear with calm and courage.  Every law-abiding citizen should learn basic self defence techniques.  In addition, intentional collaborations should be built among the agencies of home, school, community, churches and government to foster cohesiveness and comprehensiveness of action.  The conduct of parenting classes where good ‘old fashioned moral values’ are taught should be promoted. It is important to teach the young, alternative schemas for conflict resolution  and our boys in particular should be socialized to become ‘gentlemen.’  The study of civics and patriotism should be intentionally included into the academic curricula.


Finally, the government should be held accountable for the quality of leadership practiced.  Concerned business operators could start a ‘watch-dog’ group and the academics could start a research/evidence- based group for positive change.  Finally, the loss of business, national productivity and fear that business operators are experiencing is real. It is time for action!  



Guerra, N. (2009).  Individual, family, and community-level strategies to prevent crime and violence in the Caribbean: Building an evidence-base for effective action.  III Inter-American Forum on Violence Prevention and Citizen Security: Addressing Crime and Violence in the Latin American and Caribbean Region. Kingston, Jamaica: Jamaica Conference Centre.


Guiterrez, I. M. (2009).   Development and implementation of crime and violence observatories: A tool for public policy. III Inter-American Forum on Violence Prevention and Citizen Security: Addressing Crime and Violence in the Latin American and Caribbean Region. Kingston, Jamaica: Jamaica Conference Centre.


Harriott, A. D. (2008).  Bending the trend line: The challenge of controlling violence in Jamaica and the high violence societies of the Caribbean. 


Hoffman, J. S. (2009). Engaging citizens in crime and violence prevention: Emerging approaches.  III Inter-American Forum on Violence Prevention and Citizen Security: Addressing Crime and Violence in the Latin American and Caribbean Region. Kingston, Jamaica: Jamaica Conference Centre.


Lewis, M. (2010, February 25).  Church should take over life of men in gangs, says pastor. The Daily Observer, p. 9.


Luton, D. (2010, February 19). Bunting wants firearm watchdog to police cops. The Gleaner. Pg. A6.


McClelland, M. (1961). The achieving society. N.Y. The Free Press.


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