Jamaica Could See States of Emergency for up to Seven Years

During the States of Emergency, the security forces will have the power to search, curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without a warrant.

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday July 19, 2019 – As the Jamaica government aims to reduce murders significantly, Prime Minister Andrew Holness says the country should see states of emergency (SOEs) sustained for up to seven years.

Speaking in the House of Representatives in the debate on extending the state of emergency in the St Andrew South Police Division until October 5, he argued that the SOE was the best tool at this time for achieving a meaningful reduction in murders.

“If we continue to use this strategy in a selective way, give ourselves five to seven years and we can bring our murder rate down to 16 per hundred thousand, or 500 (per year). We would then be in a position to use conventional methods to maintain and reduce crime fully,” he said.

Between January 1 and July 15 this year, Jamaica recorded 726 murders and 726 shootings across 19 police divisions. The total number of people killed last year was 1,287.

Holness said the SOEs are very effective in controlling the geographical spaces in which murders are occurring.

“In 2018, we saw 360 fewer murders than in 2017. And that was purely as a result of the implementation of the SOEs in Kingston Western, St James and St Catherine. So, it is, without question, a very effective tool,” he emphasized.

“In Kingston Western, we would have seen a reduction of 17 murders compared to this time last year. In St Catherine North, we would have seen a reduction of 22 murders amounting to 32.8 per cent, relative to last year this time, and, of course, we would recall that St Catherine North benefited from an SOE which was declared last year. It is important that we continue the national effort to reduce crime, and, in particular, continue to use the tool that is the State of Public Emergency.”

Arguing that without sustained police-military intervention, crime will spiral out of control, Holness added: “And the theory behind it is quite easy to understand. One murder, just one murder, will have a reprisal effect, and depending on the context, the reprisal effect can be more than one murder.”

The House approved the 90-day extension of the SOE for the St Andrew South division. That SOE – which gives the security forces temporary additional powers, including to search, arrest, curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without a warrant – first went into effect on July 7.

St Andrew South has recorded the highest number of murders since the start of the year, with 94 cases – 15 more than the 79 murders recorded for the corresponding period last year.

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