The House of Representatives on Tuesday (July 16), approved a 90-day extension of the State of Public Emergency (SOE) for the South St. Andrew division.
In his address, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, informed that between January 1 and July 15, 2019, the country recorded 726 murders and 726 shootings across 19 police divisions.
“There were reductions in many of these divisions. For example, 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,” he said.
“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,” he added.
The Prime Minister argued that SOEs are very effective in controlling the geographical spaces in which murders are occurring.
“If they are used in a coordinated and effective way, as was seen last year, they can bring down the national murder rate. 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 emphasised.
Mr. Holness also stressed that the Government needs to continue its sustained intervention, so as to bring the murder rate below 1,000.
“Then we have to continue after that to break the psychological barrier of getting under 1,000 murders per year. If we can do that as a country, we would be well on our way,” he added.
St. Andrew South has recorded the highest number of murders since the start of the year, with 94 cases. The figure is 15 more than the 79 murders recorded for the corresponding period last year.
The SOEs will give the security forces temporary additional powers, including powers of search, arrest and detention.
During the SOEs, the security forces will have the power to search, curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without a warrant.