KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) -- Jamaica's top police official said Monday there has been a "troubling" and "unacceptable" increase in killings, with 602 homicides so far this year on the Caribbean island that has long grappled with high rates of violent crime.
There have been reductions in every other major crime category in 2015, but homicides are on the rise, Police Commissioner Carl Williams said. Half of the slayings are rooted in gang conflicts and 80 percent are done with guns, according to police statistics.
"Our communities continue to be ravaged by the senseless spilling of blood," Williams said.
Last year, Jamaica saw double-digit decreases in every crime category, including a 16 percent drop in homicides. The 1,005 slayings recorded in 2014 was the lowest annual total in over a decade on the island of 2.7 million people.
It's a long way from National Security Minister Peter Bunting's goal of reducing crime to "First World levels" by 2017, when he hopes Jamaica will have a maximum of about 320 homicides. Still, last year's reduction in killings was touted by Bunting as a "breakthrough year in the fight against crime."
With slayings ticking upward, Jamaica is increasing joint operations between the police and military. Williams said there will be an intensified presence of law enforcers on the streets, with officers "dominating major thoroughfares and occupying public spaces to deny criminals the opportunity to operate."
Williams also introduced a campaign aimed at intercepting the flow of smuggled firearms coming into Jamaica and seizing guns from criminals. He said Jamaicans will soon be offered rewards for providing information leading to the seizure of illegal weapons.