Once one of the most dangerous nations on earth, Jamaica has witnessed an astonishing decline in its murder rate, largely as a result of a police crackdown on gang activity.

The Jamaican government said that the number of killings in the first quarter of this year plunged 44 percent from the same quarter in 2010. The number of murders declined from 426 to 238 over the respective periods.

In the central and western regions of the capital, Kingston, the murder rate plummeted 60 percent. Parts of Kingston have long been controlled by violent criminal gangs.

Officials attributed the reduction to heavy police and soldier presence in gang-dominated areas.

We are very thankful for the reduction but we will not sit on the laurels of comfort, because the figures are still too high, said National Security Minister Dwight Nelson. We will continue our pursuit.

Jamaican police forces and military commenced a significant crackdown on gangs last May in tandem with their search for notorious drug lord Christopher Dudus Coke. The offensive against Coke, although ultimately successful with his capture and extradition to the U.S., was costly, resulting in more than 70 deaths.

However, human rights activists counter that extra-judicial killings and other abuses by state security forces have simultaneously risen with the crackdown.

The group “Jamaicans for Justice” allege that more than 400 civilians were killed during police security operations in 2010 compared to 253 in 2009.
These heavy-handed maneuvers have created an alienation of the populace and an even more difficult environment for fighting crime, the group said.