Project: Youth Violence and Organized Crime in Jamaica: Causes and Counter-Measures

The Institute for Criminal Justice and Security (ICJS) of the University of the West Indies  (UWI) proposes to characterize, over a period of twenty-four months, the nature of the relationship between youth gangs and organized crime in Jamaica. In addition, by exploring the environment that organized criminal enterprises create in socially excluded communities to recruit youth gangs, this study will provide insights into how the links between youth violence and organized crime potentially undermine the democratic governance of Jamaica, and lead to more violent political mobilization and conflict. In light of the burgeoning role that women play in organized crime and violence, the research will also characterize the motivations for, and extent/mechanisms of, their involvement.  Further, the ICJS will go beyond most research organizations by researching the solutions to youth gangs, organized crime and public insecurity, instead of only characterizing the problem. By investigating the efficacy of social interventions in targeted Jamaican communities, the ICJS aims to distil the most potent approaches to violence prevention and characterize the environment in which they are most effective. Evaluating social interventions aimed at violence reduction is crucial to the effectiveness, and sustainability of all local efforts. The outcomes of the project are expected to include a shift toward community based policing, concerted efforts to stem the growth of organized crime especially at the community level. The capacities of young researches will be enhanced in the areas of community research and youth dynamics better targeting of community based interventions aimed at reducing gang formation, development of more appropriate educational and employment opportunities for at risk Jamaican youth and society more aware of the support they can provide to enhance programme for these youth.
Project Objectives:General:To investigate the phenomena of youth violence in selected communities, its relationship to organized crime and document interventions that have proven effective in mitigating youth violence in communities, to influence policies and practices to improve the security of affected youth and communities. Specific: 1. To investigate and document the nature of youth violence outlining its relationship with organized crime, to curb the utilization of youth by organized crime. 2. To characterize different types of gangs and their influence on youth violence in Jamaica, to contribute to the design and implementation of more effective youth violence prevention strategies, targeted to the specific contexts and audiences. 3. To elucidate the role that women play in violence and their attitudes towards youth violence, to reduce violence against women related to youth gang activities and to enhance the role women can play to reduce youth violence, particularly at community level. 4. To document “best practices” of community-based activities that target prevention of youth violence, delineating the roles and capacities of state and non-state actors, contributing to the up-scaling of cultural approaches of youth violence prevention from local at national level and strengthen the integration and collaboration between community and state actors. 5. To outline the policy implications of the findings on youth violence and present to stakeholders, to influence and improve the relevant policy frameworks in place, striving for a holistic and long-term commitment to diminish youth violence in Jamaican communities.

Project Coordinator, University of the West Indies: Dr. Elizabeth Ward,
Funding by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), CanadaResponsible Officer, IDRC: Markus Gottsbacher,


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