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Crime is killing the Caribbean, bishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, April 6, 2012 p 6. April 9, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Crime.
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Bishop Howard Gregory

Corruption and crime are the most immediate evils facing Caribbean society the new Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands has warned.  There has been a breakdown of trust in society that was reflected in rising social tensions, voter apathy and greed, Bishop Howard Gregory said in his first interview following his election on 27 March 2012.

The new bishop’s warning follows the publication of a report by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) that the region’s rising crime rates were threatening the economies of the Caribbean.  The Caribbean Human Development Report 2012, reported that with the exception of Barbados and Suriname, homicide rates – including gang-related killings – have increased substantially in the last 12 years across the Caribbean, while they have been falling or stabilizing in other parts of the world.

Latin America and the Caribbean are home to 8.5 per cent of the world population, yet the region accounts for some 27 per cent of the world’s homicides, according to the UNDP report. While the total number of murders in Jamaica dropped to 1,124 in 2011 – a seven-year low – the country has the highest homicide rate in the Caribbean and the third-highest murder rate worldwide in recent years, with about 60 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.  Only El Salvador and Honduras have higher rates, with 66 and 82.1 murders respectively per 100,000 people.

“Violence limits people’s choices, threatens their physical integrity, and disrupts their daily lives,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, urging Caribbean governments to tackle crime head on.

The reported estimated that gang-related crime cost between 2.8 and 4 per cent of gross domestic product in the region, due to reduced tourism and higher policing and jailing costs.   Crime costs Jamaica over $529 million a year in lost income, the report found, while in Trinidad and Tobago, a one per cent reduction in youth crime would boost tourism revenue by $35 million per year.

Gang-related crime was only part of the problem, Bishop Gregory said.  “I am concerned that those in governance are not doing enough to deal with issues of corruption,” he told the Gleaner.  This had led to a breakdown of trust between the people and the state.

He further said that there was a breakdown of trust in society which needs to be addressed and he would not shy away from taking on the challenge.

“What we have seen in terms of voter turnout is indicative of something happening in the society. I believe that is finding its way into the church as well. People are feeling frustrated, they want to see things happening,” he said, adding that there was a “general mistrust of people in authority and leadership and people want to feel that they can trust those who are in leadership so that is one of the issues that I think I need to deal with.”

The Rt. Rev. Howard Gregory was elected bishop at a special meeting of synod on the second ballot by the 131 clergy and 200 lay delegates to the Elective Assembly held at St Luke’s Church Hall in Cross Roads. On the first round of voting, the Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, the Rt. Rev. Robert Thompson, led in the balloting but fell short of the two thirds majority required. However, Bishop Thompson withdrew following the first ballot and Bishop Howard received two-thirds of the vote on the second round.  Elected Suffragan Bishop of Montego Bay in 2002, Bishop Howard has been serving as the administrator of the diocese since Bishop Alfred Reid retired in December.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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