KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday July 29, 2019 – The Senate has approved a 90-day extension of the States of Public Emergency (SOEs) in the western parishes of St James, Westmoreland and Hanover – until October 28.
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator Pearnel Charles Jr., who piloted the matter last Friday, noted that the enhanced security measures have been yielding positive outcomes across the parishes, while emphasizing the importance of extending their duration.
He said while St. James recorded a 70 per cent reduction in murders between January 18, 2018 and January 31, 2019, when the SOE was in place, its discontinuation had a negative impact which reflected in a resurgence of violent crimes and gang activity in the parish.
This, the Minister said, prompted the SOE’s reintroduction in St James, and declaration in neighbouring Hanover and Westmoreland on April 30, 2019, for 90 days.
Senator Charles indicated that between April 30 and July 21, 2019, murders and shootings in St James fell by 40 per cent and 27 per cent respectively, compared to the period February 5 to April 29, 2019, prior to the SOE’s reintroduction.
Additionally, he said murders and shootings in Westmoreland declined by 74 per cent and 70 per cent respectively for the SOE’s duration, when compared to the previous period between February 5 and April 29, 2019.
The Minister further informed that the SOE’s introduction in Hanover resulted in murders and shootings falling by 33 per cent and 80 per cent respectively.
“Notwithstanding these gains, [activities in] the tri-parish region continue to raise significant security concerns nationally. Despite the reductions in murders and shootings, which have been achieved since the start of the States of Public Emergency, the aggregate number of murders in the specified areas has remained way too high,” he said.
Senator Charles pointed out that the three western parishes cumulatively accounted for 20 per cent of the murders committed across Jamaica between January 1 and July 21, 2019.
In emphasizing that the extensions are aimed at abating violence in the declared areas, the Minister said premature discontinuation of bold actions, such as the State of Public Emergency, “is destructive to our citizens, our communities and to our country”.
“So long as emergency situations exist, extraordinary solutions will be relevant and required. Our bold efforts to protect this country require a firm resolve and for all of us to remain persistent and true to the task of ensuring a society that is safe, secure, cohesive and just,” he said.
During States of Public Emergency, the security forces are empowered to search, curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without warrants.