KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday January 28, 2020 – Another part of Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, is now under a state of emergency (SOE), with the island’s police chief saying the level of crime there is “at a scale and nature that greatly endangers public safety”.
The SOE took effect in the Eastern Kingston Police Division on Sunday.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said security personnel from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) were deployed to carry out the enhanced security operation.
Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson said the area has been experiencing a high incidence of violent crimes from the latter part of 2019 and since the start of this year.
“Eastern Kingston has persistently been one of the country’s crime hot spots with several gangs engaged in deadly inter and intra-gang conflicts or other criminal enterprise. Today, there are currently 32 criminal gangs with over 16 now actively engaged in various violent conflicts in the Division. There are 33 wanted persons and another 34 violence influencers within the Division,” he said.
He said that murders in the division increased by 16 per cent in 2019, when compared to the previous year, while shootings increased by 49 per cent. Of those incidents, 67 per cent were related to gang activities.
“In 2019, we recovered 36 firearms along with 622 rounds of ammunition in East Kingston alone. Already, since the start of 2020, the Eastern Kingston Division has recorded 11 murders when compared with the three (murders) during the corresponding period last year,” Commissioner Anderson said.
Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang noted that the areas extending from Upper Mountain View to Rockfort along the coastline “continue to have a serious increase in…homicides”. And he said the Government was therefore obligated to take strong steps to protect the lives of the law-abiding citizens.
“The security forces will take all steps required to apprehend, prosecute, and disrupt the gangs that exist in these areas,” he said.
Meantime, Chief of Defence Staff Lieutenant General Rocky Meade reminded that the SOE will give the security forces temporary additional powers of search, arrest and detention and limited suspension of individual rights.
“We believe that this is necessary in order to give the security forces the necessary space to carry out the operational tasks that will be required to help bring a sense of normalcy to the communities affected,” he said.
He assured citizens that both the JDF and JCF have been properly trained and oriented to give due regard to basic human rights and citizen rights of all the persons within the communities.