Authorities report arrests, gun seizures as state of public emergency takes hold

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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THE arrests of people wanted for recent murders as well as the seizure of guns are among the early successes announced yesterday by the security forces who implemented a state of public emergency in St James last Thursday in response to rising crime in the parish.

“We have taken into custody over 197 persons over a period of three days,” said Inspector Dian Bartley of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Corporate Communication Unit (CCU).

“There are currently 111 people remaining in custody, 10 of whom are to be charged with varying offences to include incidents of shootings and murders. Among the detainees are persons expected to be charged following consultation with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions,” the CCU said.

Operations, said a CCU release, have been conducted in the communities of Flanker, Norwood, Glendevon, Salt Spring, and several others throughout the parish.

In the past, the police have come under fire from gangsters when they tried to enter some of these communities.

The CCU said among the arrests are eight for the brazen shooting incident on Sunset Boulevard on Tuesday, January 16, in which one man was killed and two others injured. The eight, a source said, are members of the cruel Sparta gang.

Two people were also taken into custody in relation to the shooting death of a man in Ironshore, St James, recently. These men are expected to be charged later this week, said the CCU.

Also, the CCU said, three other people charged with misdemeanourS have since been granted bail.

Meanwhile, a second Kalashnikov rifle was among two illegal firearms seized yesterday by the security forces in the gritty inner-city community of Flanker.

A similar model high-powered rifle was discovered inside the community last Thursday, the first day Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared the latest crime fighting initiative in the parish.

Two days before the declaration of the state of public emergency, Desmond Clarke was shot dead and two others shot and injured by men armed with Kalashnikov rifles while on Sunset Boulevard, near the roundabout, in the vicinity of Sangster International Airport.

It was reported that on Tuesday, January 16, about 4:00 pm, Clarke, two other men and a child were travelling in a grey Nissan Tiida motor car when it was shot at by four heavily armed men travelling in a grey Toyota Yaris motor car.

Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Colonel Daniel Pryce told a press briefing last week at the JDF's Burke Barracks in Montego Bay that the high-powered rifle seized during Thursday's operation in Flanker is believed to have been used in the deadly Sunset Boulevard attack.

“On Thursday we seized one Kalashnikov rifle and six live rounds in Flanker, Montego Bay. We suspect that the high-powered weapon was used in one of the recent brazen murders that would have taken place in Montego Bay over the past few weeks. That weapon is to undergo ballistic and forensic testing to determine its history,” Colonel Pryce stated.

In the meantime, a release from the Ministry of Justice yesterday stated that the Legal Aid Council is providing representation for people who have been detained under the state of emergency.

“The Legal Aid Council, in collaboration with Cornwall Bar Association, has made available 19 counsel, including six senior lawyers, to provide representation for the detainees,” the ministry said.

“Residents of St James who have been detained may contact the Montego Bay Legal Aid Clinic at 42B Union Street, St James, or call the Cornwall Bar Association.

“Residents of St James may also visit the Instagram and Facebook pages of the Cornwall Bar Association for a list of the lawyers who have been rostered.”

Yesterday, civil military cooperation and media affairs officer at the JDF Major Basil Jarrett, who confirmed the recovery of the firearms, disclosed that no one was arrested in connection with the seizure.

Meanwhile, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) said yesterday that it fully supports the recent decision by the Government to declare a state of public emergency in St James.

The agency said it is confident that the security forces will perform their duties within their own use of force policies. “We are particularly pleased that, as a part of the strategic approach to the state of emergency, members of the security forces have received refresher training in human rights and public engagement,” INDECOM said.

In a bid to get more information from people on the ground, the JDF yesterday announced a new hotline — 837-8888 — which can be used to provide tips and make it easier for people to share information with the security forces during the state of emergency. In addition, e-mail can be sent to takeback.stjames@jdf.mil.jm, which, like the hotline, is secure and confidential, according to the army.

Major Jarrett said the number and e-mail addresses are manned and operated by JDF soldiers non-stop, and there is no need for callers to identify themselves or their location.

“Security operations are only as good as the intelligence that drives them, and we cannot achieve success without the assistance and support of persons in the community. Residents must say 'enough is enough' and begin to share information with us so that together we can take back St James,” Jarrett said.

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