KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday September 27, 2015 – Despite a spike in violent crime in western Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness says the government is not considering declaring a limited State of Emergency – at least not yet.
He said he remains confident the security forces have the capacity to effectively address the problems.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a spike in gun violence – resulting in death in some instances – in the western parish of St. James.
“The Government is not afraid to call a State of Emergency but at this point, a State of Emergency, in my mind, is not a tool that needs to be deployed. I think the police force has the capacity, our army has the capacity…I think with the other strategies and plans we have in place, we will be improving the capacity of the police and the army to respond,” Holness said at a press conference that followed a meeting between the Prime Minister and the leadership of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Jamaica Defence Force and other key security stakeholders to discuss crime-fighting strategies.
He added that he did not want a sense of siege to take over Jamaicans through the implementation of a State of Emergency, but will be keeping that option open.
“If the Government deems it necessary, we will, but we are not at that point so I don’t want criminals to feel that we have any hesitation if it is required. Jamaica is a functioning state, we do have elevated levels of crime…It is associated with the phase of development that we find ourselves in. The truth is that much of our crimes is driven by economic motives.”
Holness pointed out that once the country’s economy starts growing at an acceptable rate, crime should fall.
“One has to be careful, however, that in tackling crime you don’t shut down the entire economy…you need to be pulling people out of crime and into jobs and so the Government is putting into place those strategies,” he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Holness is appealing to citizens to take information about criminals and their activities to the police.
“Information is probably the greatest weapon against the criminal. The criminal exists and thrives in areas where he is protected because citizens don’t share the information,” he argued.
“Someone knows the gunman that did the killing…probably washed his bloody clothes…probably hid him somewhere, transported him somewhere and someone is probably there giving him succour and protection. That gunman is not your friend. In the same way that he killed someone, he could kill you, and I think communities…need to look into themselves.”
The Jamaican leader pointed to the need for citizens and the police to build a bond of trust in an effort to stamp out crime and violence.
He said he has also had discussions with Commissioner of Police Dr. Carl Williams to undertake measures to ensure the integrity of the police force in Montego Bay.