The State of Public Emergency (SOE) in sections of the Kingston Central, Kingston Western and St. Andrew South Police Divisions will continue for another three months, until January 7, 2019.
This follows the unanimous approval of the Emergency Powers No. 3 (Continuance) Resolution 2018 in the Senate on Friday, October 5.
On September 23, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, declared the SOE in sections of the Police Divisions.
Addressing the Senate, Leader of Government Business and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, said the enhanced measures will allow the security forces to bring the high levels of violence under control, while making the movement of weapons within the specific communities more difficult.
“We must support the security forces who have been and who will continue [enhancing] the law within the provisions of the law to the benefit of our citizens. The security forces have been doing well. You hear the feedback from the communities, and we have to commend them and recognise that what is happening is that as they continue to bring down murders, they will continue to bring up and build the trust,” she said.
Senator Johnson Smith said for 2017, and so far this year, several communities within the geographical areas in question emerged among the top 10 in Jamaica with respect to murders and incidents of shooting.
She informed that, last year, the police divisions of Kingston West, St. Andrew South and Kingston Central recorded a combined total of 485 murders and shootings.
The Minister noted that up to October 1 of this year, the divisions recorded a combined total of 365 murders and shootings.
Senator Johnson said the measures will go a long way in returning hot spot communities to a state in which they can be kept safe by normal policing.
“This will work together with the five-pillar crime strategy, which is under way and which is making progress across the island as reflected in the serious crime indices. These tools, together with the increased activities under Crime Stop and the Get the Guns Campaign, are yielding fruits. We have to use every tool available to us within the law, and we are committed to so doing,” she said.
Senator Johnson Smith reiterated that the safety and well-being of all Jamaicans will continue to be top priority for the Government.
“The tools being considered before us today for extension have been proven, thus far, to be effective in disrupting the activities of criminal gangs, disrupting the cycle of destructive violence and reprisals,” she added.
Mrs. Johnson Smith said disrupting activities such as extortion will reduce profits being made by criminal gangs, while stifling their ability to grow and expand, which in turn will weaken them and their hold on the communities.
She argued that these measures will assist with the redevelopment and revitalisation activities being undertaken in the Kingston Metropolitan Region. “We need to take Kingston back from the criminals,” she said.
Senator Johnson Smith said the increased presence by the SOE offers more protection to the nation’s children.
“The gangs continue to include our children in their heinous activities. There are too many reports of children who are victims to crime and violence, not only through death, rape and injury but also through interrupting their childhood by way of including them as perpetrators and involving them in gang activities,” she noted.
“Leave the children alone; let them live out their lives free from fear or being summoned by dons when they reach puberty. They must be free to dream and study their books and go to school, knowing that a better life is ahead of them,” the Minister said.
She pointed out that the extension is based on the advice of the security forces.
The Constitution provides that a period of public emergency can be declared by Proclamation if the Governor-General is satisfied that action has been taken or threatened by any person or body of persons of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as to be likely to endanger public safety.
Photo: R. Fraser