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Montego Bay is the birthplace and centre of the lottery scamming industry and its offshoots, an industry that generates millions of U.S. dollars a year, and is thought to be connected to the high murder and shooting rates in St. James. CAPRI launched its study on Scamming, Gangs and Violence in Montego Bay at a public forum on Monday, September 23, 2019 at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre. The think tank brought together His Worship Homer Davis – Mayor of Montego Bay, Mr. Dominik Riley – Country Attache’ to Jamaica from the U.S Embassy and Mr. Fitz Bailey- Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Jamaica Constabulary Force to join Ms. Joanna Callen – Researcher at CAPRI in the discussion. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Diana Thorburn - Director of Research at CAPRI.
Ms. Callen presented the findings of the research which depicted Montego Bay as the epicentre of lottery scamming in Jamaica. She explained that St. James in 2017 reported the highest murder rate across the island. The parish is being plagued with extant culture of violence, inefficient justice system, corruption, poor socio-economic conditions, foundation of political gangs, high societal tolerance for gangs and high tolerance for scamming. “The evolution of the “industry” is quite evident through its dynamics in lead list acquiring, who now are scammers, who now are the victims and the handling of remittance agencies,” Callen explained.
She concluded the presentation by sharing CAPRI’s recommendations. These included: create an agreed upon measurement and indicators of scamming as this will enable the tracking of changes; conduct a comprehensive situational analysis of scamming which will give a detailed inner working of scamming; clarify, align, and coordinate all law enforcements and their roles. Callen further added that the Law Reform (Fraudulent Short title. Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act should be accelerated and enacted as a matter of priority.
Callen urged the audience to stop seeing scamming as a victimless crime, and its tolerance should not be prolonged. The intervention of the Jamaican and international stakeholders is imperative.