Government and private sector stakeholders in St. James have pledged to work together to ensure the maintenance of law and order, even as the State of Public Emergency (SOE) has come to an end.
The yearlong security operation, which concluded on January 31, has seen significant reduction in crime, particularly murders, which fell to 102 at the end of last year from 335 in 2017.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, in an address to business interests and other stakeholders in Montego Bay on January 27, said that “the Government will do everything in its power to ensure that the citizens of St. James and our visitors are safe and secure.”
“Economic certainty, seamlessness, safety and security are important elements of a successful economic plan,” he added.
Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Homer Davis, in praising the work of the security forces over the past year, said residents of St. James can be assured that an end to the SOE “doesn’t mean the floodgates will be open for a return to mayhem and chaos.”
“The checkpoints will remain and the security forces will still maintain a heavy presence on the streets,” he noted.
“We are not about to yield an inch to the criminals or those who are hell-bent on doing bad things. Crime has been trending down and we have been seeing a huge reduction in murders, etc. We want to do even better,” he added.
Mayor Davis noted that the Government is building facilities to accommodate additional members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in the parish.
“Up in Montego Hills, land has been cleared for the construction of a new police barracks to house some 250 policemen.
“The JDF is completing barracks out in the Flanker area, across from the airport, to house some 700 soldiers. They (the soldiers) have the capability to come by air, to come by sea, and to come on land. So whichever way you want to take it, they have the capabilities,” he added.
Mayor Davis said the idea is to have a heavy security presence in the entire western region. “Criminals tend to move from one area to another so we will be having a strong presence in Trelawny, St. James, Hanover and Westmoreland,” he noted.
The Mayor said that the success of the SOE is unquestionable, pointing to the major reduction in murders.
“This community is united in our belief that we are not going to go back to where we were prior to 2018,” he pledged.
For his part, President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Omar Robinson, told JIS News that his organization is happy with the assurances given by the Government and the security forces, adding that “we are all united in not wanting to go back to the days prior to the SOE.”
“I like everything I am hearing from the Government and the security forces and their obvious commitment to ensuring we do not reverse the gains we have made,” he said.
The Prime Minister declared a State of Public Emergency in the parish of St. James on January 18, 2018, following a rise in criminal activity throughout the parish.
The Constitution provides that a period of public emergency can be declared by a Proclamation if the Governor-General is satisfied that action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any person or body of persons, in such a nature, and on so extensive a scale, as to be likely to endanger public safety.