State of Emergency declared in Clarendon
The Government has finally bowed to public pressure and has announced a state of emergency in Clarendon. The central parish, which has been bleeding for some time, has already recorded 100 murders since the start of the year.
"This should come as no surprise," Prime Minister Andrew Holness said after he made the announcement at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston on Thursday.
Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson said that the high level of violent crimes made it necessary for the declaration of the extreme security measure, which has also been declared for St Catherine.
"The high levels of violent crimes which is being experienced in the parishes of Clarendon and St Catherine since the start of the year is at a scale and nature such that it greatly endangers public safety. The Clarendon Division has historically been one of the most violent regions in the country, with a number of gangs engaged in inter- or intra-gang conflicts or criminal enterprise," Major General Anderson said.
The St Catherine South Police Division has seen a 50 per cent increase in murders, when compared with the previous period last year. Some 91 murders have been recorded in the division since the start of the year. In the St Catherine North Police Division, Major General Anderson said that there is a 14 per cent reduction, but insists that the 66 murders recorded in the area is way too high.
"The gang warfare and other criminal acts perpetrated by gangs has created fear among citizens and has caused the disruption of livelihoods in sections of the parishes. The fear that is associated with this level of violence has undermined the daily lives of these communities and the residents," Major General Anderson said.
The prime minister, when asked by journalists whether the declaration of yet another state of emergency would undermine the effectiveness of the others that are currently in effect, said the security forces are operating in a deliberate manner.
"We don’t declare a state of public emergency in an arbitrary way," Holness said, adding that additional resources have been provided to the lawmen.
The prime minister said that he is always concerned about stretching resources to the limit, but argued that in management "you don’t know your true limits until you have tested it". He said that the security forces have demonstrated that they can stand up to the challenges.
He said, too, that "all potential threats and challenges" have been taken into account in declaring the state of emergency. He said that he is mindful that there is a risk of diluting the effectiveness of measures because of the number of states of emergency declared on the island.
States of emergency are currently in St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, and in the St Andrew South Division. Major General Anderson said that murders have dropped by 24 per cent in St James, 61 in Hanover and 50 in Westmoreland when compared to the similar period prior to the declaration of the tri-parish state of emergency in April.
"The protection of the lives of Jamaicans is our priority," Dr Horace Chang, the national security minister, said. He said that murders have fallen from nearly six per week to just over one per week in the South St Andrew Division since the declaration of a state of emergency in July.