The Senate, on Thursday (September 19), approved the Emergency Powers (No. 3) Continuance Resolution, allowing for the State of Public Emergency (SOE) in Clarendon and St. Catherine to remain in effect until October 19.
In her remarks, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and Leader of Government Business in the Upper House, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, said the levels of violent crime in St. Catherine, and Clarendon in particular, have been too high for some time.
“The residents of that parish [Clarendon] have been crying out for help and, indeed, political representatives on both sides of the aisle have cried out for action. Our security forces have done the analysis and responded,” she said.
Senator Johnson Smith noted that the State of Public Emergency cannot be regarded as a panacea nor can it be described as the crime plan.
“It will not, by itself, solve the intractable criminal, psychosocial or socio-economic challenges that have [become] entrenched in our communities over the decades. It will not, overnight, change Jamaica or even the communities in which they have been implemented,” the Leader of Government Business stated.
She, however, pointed out that the States of Public Emergency, as implemented, have been proven to save lives.
Senator Johnson Smith said the declaration of the SOEs in the areas was consequent on the rate of murders, gang-related activities and other illicit activities that were occurring.
She noted that between January 2019 and the time of the SOEs declaration, Clarendon had recorded 100 murders, the second highest among the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) divisions.
“The St. Catherine South police division has recorded 91 murders, reflecting the fourth highest number for that period. This figure represents a significant increase of 45 per cent when compared to the same period in 2018,” Senator Johnson Smith informed.
She added that the St. Catherine North Police Division recorded 66 murders, which was the sixth highest number for the review period.
“Cumulatively, the combined geographical space accounted for almost one-third of murders in the country since the start of the year. St. Catherine alone accounted for more than 150, reflecting the second highest murder count among all parishes,” Senator Johnson Smith said.
She added that since the implementation of the states of public emergency, the initial seven days of the operations, from September 5 to 11, resulted in a 73 per cent reduction in murders and shootings.
“As at September 15, 135 persons have been arrested and charged with varying offences – 35 in St. Catherine and 100 in Clarendon,” the Leader of Government Business informed.
Meanwhile, Senator Johnson Smith informed the Upper House that the hours under which businesses can operate under the SOE have been extended and are to be gazetted today.
To this end, in respect of clubs and fast-food restaurants, the opening hours are from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.; establishments required by law to operate under a tavern licence – 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.; petroleum filling stations – 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.; supermarkets and grocery shops/haberdasheries – 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.; pharmacies – 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.; churches – 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.; and other public places – 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.