Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Abraham S. Fischler College of Education

Advisor

Grace Telesco

Committee Member

Jermaine McCalpin

Committee Member

Alicia O. Jackson

Abstract

Escalating murder rates have been a pervasive reality in Jamaican inner cities and slums since the early 1970’s; however the post independence housing development of Portmore was never envisaged to be classified as an inner city community, nor slum. This qualitative study seeks to explain the uncharacteristic cycle of murder that has afflicted this community by employing the approach of examining the victims of homicide, with an aim to determining the possible reasons that could explain the consistently high rate of murders that have been committed.

During the period January 1st, 2015 to December 31st, 2018, 381 souls were lost to the crime of murder in Portmore. These victims were analysed with an aim to determining their link, if any, to criminal activity, gang membership or gang affiliation. There was also an aim to determine the location of their deaths with the purpose of identifying murder victims between residents of formal and/or informal communities. Additionally, homicides committed in the neighbouring communities of Central Village and Old Harbour were also analysed, as they both had similar characteristics that allowed for identification and comparison.

The methodology used in the analysis and classification of each murder victim was drawn from the homicide investigative process of the St. Catherine South Police Division, through the analysis of the Divisional Intelligence Unit and the Criminal Investigations Branch reports. Through their use, and the collaboration of the units, the study was able to ascertain a system of classification of the homicide victims. The informal communities were found to be significant contributors to the homicide rate as, despite their contribution of only 10 percent of the population of Portmore, approximately 50 percent of all the murders took place there.

The study is critically important because it highlights the effects criminal activity, gang affiliation and association, and informal settlements have on homicide rates. The study, therefore, has island-wide applicability to Jamaica and other Caribbean jurisdictions that are afflicted with likewise conditions.

Theories are developed to explain phenomenon, and this paper seeks to formulate a theory to explain the high homicide rate in the community of Portmore. It goes on further to suggest corrective measures, through targeted intervention, to stem this rate and to disconnect the at-risk youth from the influencers that are contributing to the cycle of killing facilitated by the lure of gang membership.

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