KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday July 30, 2018 – The State of Public Emergency now in effect in the northwestern parish of St. James will continue for another three months.
Members of the Senate unanimously approved the extension under the Emergency Powers (Continuance) (No. 3) Resolution, 2018, until November 1. Last week, the Lower House voted in favour of the extension.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Pearnel Charles Jr., who moved the resolution, said the State of Public Emergency is not intended to continue forever, but the extension is needed “to build on the foundation that has been created so that crime becomes more manageable and normal policing can be utilized”.The State of Public Emergency was declared in St. James on January 18 by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and has been extended twice since then.
“We need to construct a safe and stable environment for our citizens, but we won’t get there overnight. We need more time so that the law enforcement and security personnel can effectively dismantle these criminal elements,” he said.
Noting that the State of Public Emergency has contributed to a reduction in crime, he informed that during the period January 1 to July 21, there were 55 murders in St. James, which reflects a 67.3 per cent decrease when compared to the corresponding period in 2017.
“What this means is that there have been 113 less murders in St. James. Moreover, the average daily murders have fallen from 4.65 to 3.44 per cent,” he said, pointing to a 56.6 per cent reduction in shootings for the same period.
Additionally, the parish has seen a 32.4 per cent reduction in robberies and a 38.1 per cent reduction in reported rapes between January 1 and July 15.
Up to June 30, a total of 2,729 persons were detained of which 175 were charged for various crimes, including 20 persons charged as gang leaders or members.
Additionally, 46 firearms were recovered and many of these were directly linked to gang leaders and members. On July 13, a significant person of interest was intercepted and arrested at a checkpoint in St. James.
Noting that the enhanced security measures are working, Charles said the citizens of St. James, the security forces, tourism stakeholders and business people “are calling for more time.”
“They have (said) that they feel safer and their well-being is more protected. The residents in St. James have been steadily increasing in confidence, and are more trusting of the security forces and this trust and confidence has directly translated to more and more information being given on the whereabouts of criminals and their weapons,” he pointed out.
Charles argued that “this trust and confidence is something that we cannot take lightly and we need to foster nationwide.”
During the State of Public Emergency, the security forces have the power to search, curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without a warrant. It also gives them the power to stop and question persons and seize property.