The House of Representatives on Tuesday (October 15) approved a three-month extension of the States of Public Emergency (SOEs) in the parishes of St. James, Westmoreland and Hanover, until January 27, 2020.
In his address, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, explained that declaration of the SOEs in the areas was done as a result of the rate of murders, gang-related activities and other illicit activities that were occurring.
He informed that for the comparative 162-day period prior to and during the State of Public Emergency, that is November 19, 2018 to April 29, 2019 and April 30 to October 8, 2019, respectively, the Tri-Parish area experienced an overall reduction in murders by 35 per cent, moving from 142 to 93, and shootings by 43 per cent, decreasing from 140 to 80.
The Prime Minister said that over the period April 30, 2019 to October 8, 2019, during the period of the State of Public Emergency, reductions were recorded in all three parishes.
He informed that murders and shootings in the parish of St. James reduced by five per cent, moving from 64 to 61, and 13 per cent for shootings, from 61 to 53, respectively, when compared to the similar period last year.
“Murders and shootings in the parish of Westmoreland reduced by 62 per cent, moving from 55 to 21 and 58 per cent for shootings, moving from 57 to 24, when compared to the equivalent period last year,” he noted.
He added that murders and shootings in the parish of Hanover decreased by 52 per cent and 86 per cent, respectively. “As a tool of controlling serious crimes, the SOEs are working,” he said.
The Prime Minister said cumulatively, for the same period, a total of 1,894 persons were detained, of which 148 were arrested and 74 remain in custody for the entire areas.
“There were 901 arrests and charges within the Division for varying offences, to include breaches of the Firearms Act, 138; breaches of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 86 were arrested and charged; for murder, 45 were arrested and charged; for shooting, 42 were charged and for robbery, 34,” he said.
Mr. Holness noted that 60 firearms and 4,133 rounds of ammunition have also been recovered.
He said notwithstanding the gains, the Tri-Parish region continues to raise significant security concerns nationally.
“Cumulatively, the three parishes still account for 20 per cent of the murders and 19 per cent of shootings committed throughout the country over the period January 1, 2019 to October 9, 2019.
The threat of guns, gangs and dons in the areas under the SOE remains prevalent. The gangs operating in the three divisions are known to perpetuate violent criminal activities, thereby causing a high level of fear and insecurity among the citizenry,” he said.
During the SOEs, the security forces have the power to search, curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without a warrant.
The SOEs became effective on April 30, 2019, with the current period of extension slated to expire on October 28, 2019.