PM defends state of emergency in all of Clarendon and St Catherine

Prime Minister Andrew Holness a short while ago announced that Governor General Sir Patrick Allen has declared a State Of Emergency (SOE) in the entire parishes of St Catherine and Clarendon – a position his government simultaneously tried to justify.

“This proclamation of a State of Emergency shall remain in force unless revoked for a period of 14 days, or for such longer period not exceeding three months – as both houses of parliament may determine by resolution, supported by a two-thirds majority of the members of each House [of Parliament],” the prime minister said during a press briefing at Jamaica House this morning, September 5.

He stated that a SOE is not declared in an arbitrary manner, adding that statistics and intelligence are considered.

Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson, in the meantime, said the SOE, which took effect this morning, is prompted by high levels of violent crimes.

“The high level of violent crime which is being experienced in the parishes of Clarendon and St Catherine since the start of the year is at a scale and nature such that it greatly endangers public safety,” he reasoned.

“The Clarendon Division has historically been one of the most violent regions in the country with a number of gangs engaged in inter and intra gang conflicts or other criminal enterprise. Already, since the start of 2019, the Clarendon Division has recorded the second highest number of murders at 100.”

The commissioner further stated that the St Catherine South Police Division has seen a 50 percent increase in murders over the number recorded for the corresponding period last year. The number currently sits at 91 murders.

The St Catherine North Division, in the meantime, has been experiencing a reduction of 14 percent in murders compared to last year. The commissioner however lamented that 66 people have been murdered there since the start of the year.

This is the first time that the current government is declaring a SOE in Clarendon, and in the entire parish of St Catherine, where the recent SOE only covered St Catherine North Division.

There is already a SOE covering the parishes of St James, Westmoreland and Hanover, and another in St Andrew South Police Division.

Commissioner Anderson today said the previous SOEs have been successful.

“As has been demonstrated through previous and current SOEs, this methodology has been very effective in reducing violent crimes. This was achieved while simultaneously reducing violent confrontation with the security forces,” he said.

The commissioner added: “By way of update, we have seen reductions in murders in St James, Westmoreland and Hanover of 24 percent, 61 percent and 50 percent respectively, when compared with the similar period prior to the declaration of the tri-parish SOE. Similarly, in St Andrew South, there has been a 75 percent drop in murders when compared to the similar period before the state of emergency.”

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in the meantime, was asked if there is any fear of the SOEs being watered down, considering the limited human and other resources.

He replied: “I am always concerned about stretching our resources to the limit, but, in management, sometimes you recognize that you don’t know your true limit until you have tested it…”

The prime minister added that the security forces should be commended for the SOE work they already have been doing.

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