Jamaica News: The Senate, on Wednesday (October 16), approved a 90-day extension of the States of Public Emergency (SOE) in Clarendon and St. Catherine until January 18, 2020.
A similar extension was approved for the SOEs in Hanover, Westmoreland and St. James until January 27, 2020.
Leader of Government Business in the Upper House and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, in moving the resolution, argued that while Government is not where it wants to be in relation to the country’s crime problem, the value of the security measure in saving lives and reducing serious crimes cannot be discounted.
“The experience is there for all to see, particularly in St. James, where the SOEs have reduced murders and shootings by close to 70 per cent. But the security forces advised that the parish was not yet at a place in which the gains could be sustained by normal policing. Within months, all the gains were lost,” she indicated.
Senator Johnson Smith said the SOEs have been in the tri-parish area for 162 days (April 30, 2019 – October 8, 2019), during which there was a cumulative 35 per cent reduction in murders and 43 per cent decline in murders when compared with the similar number of days prior to the start of the security measure (November 19, 2018 – April 29, 2019).
Over the period, she said, murders and shootings in St. James fell by five per cent and 13 per cent, respectively, and by 62 per cent and 58 per cent, respectively, in Westmoreland.
Additionally, Senator Jonson Smith said Hanover recorded a 52 per cent reduction in murders while shootings have decreased by 86 per cent.
“Notwithstanding these gains, the tri-parish region continues to raise significant security concerns nationally as, cumulatively, they still account for 20 per cent of the murders and 19 per cent of the shootings committed throughout the country since the start of the year,” she indicated.
With respect to Clarendon and St. Catherine, Senator Johnson Smith said since the implementation of the SOE over the 34-day period, murders and shootings have collectively fallen by 62 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively, when compared to the previous 34-day period.
However, she said, despite the gains made within the 34-days (September 5, 2019- October 8, 2019) of implementation, both parishes posed significant concern as together they account for 27 per cent of murders committed in the country since the start of the year.
Additionally, the Minister said crime data indicates that there are concerns, particularly about the threat posed by gangs operating in the areas which have not been dismantled, albeit disrupted.
Consequently, she said the security forces are recommending further extensions, as they require more time to achieve their objectives.
“Time must be afforded to allow the population to benefit to a greater extent, in that the gains made thus far will be sustained and sustainable by normal policing,” Senator Johnson Smith added.
The Government Senator, however, stressed that while the SOEs are vital at this time in addressing violent crimes and saving lives in the areas where they have been implemented, it is not a crime plan, “nor does the Government believes that it is the equivalent or a substitute”.
“There are other immediate short, medium and long-term measures being implemented by the Government and other stakeholders, in the interest of public safety,” she emphasised.
Senator Johnson Smith reiterated that the Administration does not believe that the SOEs are silver bullets or that they provide a panacea.
“They do not eliminate all murders. While they may reduce means and mobility, they do not, in all cases, remove motive; they do not solve the deep psychosocial nor the socio-economic issues related to crime,” she said.
Source: JIS News