Dangerous detainees

Dangerous detainees

Police link 57 of those released at end of SOEs to violent crimes

Friday, October 16, 2020

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POLICE investigators have linked more than 40 per cent of the individuals released from custody, when the states of public emergency (SOEs) were lifted on August 17, to several major crimes over the past few weeks.

Addressing a media briefing called by the Ministry of National Security yesterday, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson, in a seemingly strong defence of the security forces' decision to detain people believed to be “violence producers” under the SOEs, pointed to 57 of those detainees becoming victims or perpetrators of violent crimes since their release.

According to Anderson, when the SOEs were lifted, 240 people were being held in detention.

“Of that 200-plus, we were able to charge about 100 of them prior to the ending of it [SOEs], so we released about 140 persons. Since then, we have 57 of those 140 who have come to law enforcement attention, of which five of the persons who were in detention have been killed — four in confrontations with other gangsters and one in a fatal shooting with the police.

“Three [of the 140 released] were shot and injured in gang conflicts; we have 16 of them who are suspected of murder, including two double murders and two murder/shootings; we have nine of them who are shooting suspects, of which four have been rearrested; we have five of them who are involved in robberies; and 19 of them have come to our attention, once again, based on intelligence…,” the police commissioner said.

He said his investigators are moving to make cases against those involved in crimes, and to take them back into custody as soon as possible.

“This is 57, and it is something that we track because we want to make sure, or understand, that when we were detaining, we were detaining the right people — people who would make a difference — and we are reasonably satisfied that that was the case,” said Anderson, whose policemen and women faced fierce criticism from what was deemed to be the arbitrary detention of mainly poor, black youths under the SOEs.

The SOE was first implemented in St James in January 2018, with the parishes of Hanover and Westmoreland added on April 30, 2019. St Catherine, Clarendon and St Andrew South were all added in 2019, before the Kingston Eastern Police Division made the list in January of this year.

But Prime Minister Andrew Holness had long promised that the SOEs would not be in place when Jamaicans next went to the polls, and they were lifted in time for the September 3 General Election.

Since then, Supreme Court Judge Justice Bertram Morrison has ruled in the case of five men who challenged their extended detentions under the SOEs that it was unlawful.

In his written judgement, Justice Morrison stated that the men's constitutional rights and the constitution itself were being breached by their detention and the executive detention system. He also stated that using detention orders for criminal offences was a breach.

The Government has since indicated that it will be appealing the ruling and yesterday, Anderson stayed clear of mentioning whether the security forces would be recommending more SOEs, even as he argued that they were important in reducing crime.

“States of emergency have very specific features that allow them to give you that sort of light-switch effect on murders, that as soon as you start implementing them the areas where it is implemented [murders] immediately drop, and we saw that in Kingston East. Earlier in the year it was very high, and as soon as it [the SOE] was implemented, it shut down immediately,” said Anderson, as he pointed to significant decline in murders in Clarendon and the St Andrew South Police Division after SOEs were implemented.

Anderson noted that, as of yesterday morning, the country's murder total was down 1.9 per cent this year compared to the corresponding period last year, while shootings were 1.7 per cent fewer this year.

At the start of this week, the official numbers from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) showed 1,000 murders up to September 10, a slight reduction on the 1,016 recorded over the same period in 2019. The JCF also reported 827 shootings, down from 976 last year, with all other major crimes down between 10 and 20 per cent.

But the police commissioner pointed out that a few weeks ago, while the SOEs were in place, murders were 5.2 per cent below last year before a spike in the last five weeks.

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