JAMAICA closed 2012 with a significant seven per cent drop in serious crimes, including murder, as well as an overall decrease in sexual offences.
The performance led National Security Minister Peter Bunting to send an open congratulatory letter to Police Commissioner Owen Ellington yesterday in which the minister noted that murders, while still unacceptably high, were at their lowest in nine years.
"I am writing to commend the officers and rank and file police personnel under your leadership for the significant progress made in 2012," Bunting wrote after receiving the preliminary year-end crime figures from the constabulary's Statistics and Data Management Unit.
According to the police data, the number of reported murders between January 1 and December 31, 2012 stood at 1,087, a decrease of four per cent compared to the 1,133 in 2011.
There were 1,223 cases of shootings, a nine per cent drop over the previous year when 1,346 cases were reported.
Murders and shootings are categorised by the police as serious crimes.
The drop in murders is particularly significant, given that in 2010 the number was 1,445, while in 2009 the country recorded 1,683 cases.
While there were 19 more cases of rape reported last year, compared to 2011, overall sexual offences — which include carnal abuse — saw a decrease of seven per cent.
Acquisitory crimes — namely robbery, break-ins and larceny — fell by 6.8 per cent the data showed, with robbery showing the largest decrease of 13 per cent.
Yesterday, in his letter to the police commissioner, Bunting pointed to the decreases and highlighted certain areas of performance which he said warranted special mention.
Among them were:
* The seven police divisions which recorded double-digit reductions, namely St Catherine North, 34 per cent; St Catherine South, 21 per cent; Trelawny, 26 per cent; St Mary, 17 per cent; Portland ,10 per cent; St Elizabeth, 16 per cent; and St Thomas, 38 per cent.
* Sexual assaults against minors down 16 per cent.
* Road fatalities down to 258 from 308 last year.
* Increases of 18.5 per cent and 14 per cent in the recovery of firearms and ammunition respectively.
* A 41 per cent increase in the seizure of marijuana, from 36.7 thousand kilogrammes in 2011 to 51.9 thousand kilogrammes last year.
* A seven per cent reduction in police fatal shootings.
Bunting offered special praise to Superintendent Gladys Brown-Campbell, head of the Kingston branch of CISOCA, and her team who he said have been "relentless in their public education campaign and in their support of victims of sexual crimes".
The minister also congratulated Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis and his team at the Traffic Department "for their exceptional effort in maintaining order on our roads".
Said Bunting: "The nation is encouraged by the progress made in 2012, and particularly the positive momentum being carried into 2013, based on the positive outturn of this last quarter."