Imani Green murder: how violence plagues Jamaica

Poverty, gang violence, guns and the mistrust of police remain serious problems on the Caribbean island

Owen Ellington, the commissioner of the Jamaica constabulary, has worked to increase public confidence in his officers and promised to crack down on crime and corruption, but still the island is plagued by violence.

While major crime is decreasing, and the murder rate fell almost 5% to 1,087 deaths last year – well down from its 2009 peak of 1,683 – poverty, gang violence and the ubiquity of guns remain serious problems, as does mistrust of the police.

While the number of people killed by police officers also fell last year, the first 12 days of 2013 have seen 18 Jamaicans die at the hands of officers.

Ellington has promised several new crime-fighting initiatives this year, while two former British policemen – Les Green and Justin Felice – have won public trust and respect from within the force for improving its murder investigations and its anti-corruption branch.

Green, who has now left the force after an eight-year stint, and Felice, who now heads the financial investigations division, were awarded OBEs in the Queen's recent New Year honours list.

A watershed in tackling gang violence was the extradition to the US of the powerful and politically connected gangster Christopher "Dudus" Coke in a 2010 operation by security forces that left 73 civilians dead.

However, the murder of Imani Green and an incident on Saturday in which police killed three people show that much work remains before Jamaica can shed its reputation as a violent country.