House approves one-month extension of SOE in St Catherine, Clarendon

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The House of Representatives yesterday approved a one month extension of the State of Public Emergency (SOE) in the parishes of Clarendon and St Catherine, until October 19.

In his address, Prime Minister Andrew Holness noted that over the period January 1 to September 16, 2019, some 948 murders and 908 incidents of shootings were recorded across all 19 police divisions.

“While there has been notable reductions and some marginal differences in many of these divisions, there are others that have recorded notable increases, therefore overall, the Government sees the crime situation with grave concern,” Holness said.

He pointed out that the Government has noted with concern, the recent crime trends in Clarendon and in South St Catherine.

“Therefore, declaration [of the SOE] should have come as no surprise. Indeed, it should have been anticipated, as I believe universally in this House, members were asking when are we going to have an intervention in Clarendon, especially,” the prime minister said.

The SOE was announced for the parishes of Clarendon and St Catherine on September 5.

Holness noted that the selection of the area under the SOE was primarily driven by the rate of murders, and gang related activities operating in that space.

“Since implementation of the state of public emergency over the period September 5 to September 11 – the first seven days of the operations – the rates of murders and shootings collectively, have been reduced by 73 per cent. That is, from 15 murders to four murders when compared to the equivalent period,” he pointed out.

The prime minister added that 100 persons have been arrested and charged with varying offences during the period - 30 in St Catherine and 70 in Clarendon.

Holness said declaration of the SOE has allowed the security forces to conduct operations designed to target and disrupt gangs and organised criminal networks; apprehend wanted persons; seize illegal weapons, ammunitions and narcotics; target the proceeds of illegal activities; reduce the freedom of criminals to move around; and establish public order.

“As the operations continue, the strategy moving forward must include returning the police divisions to a state where normal policing can be exercised,” Holness said.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition, Dr Peter Phillips, urged the Government to review the hours under which a business can operate under the SOE.

In his response, the prime minister noted that the Government has agreed to a closing time of 10:00 pm for business operators within the State of Public Emergency in Clarendon and St Catherine.

“We will review that and discuss with the Commissioner [of Police] to see whether or not that will stretch the security forces and see if we can find a compromise to that,” he said.


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