State of public emergency digs deep in St Catherine North police division on first day

Staff reporter

Monday, March 19, 2018

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NINETY-FOUR people were detained yesterday and one firearm was recovered in the St Catherine North police division, where a state of public emergency was declared in light of the slew of murders and rampant acts of crime occurring in the division.

Inspector Dahlia Garrick of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Corporate Communication Unit said last night that of the 94 detainees, 24 were released, 20 were processed and kept overnight, while the remaining 50 were being processed with a view to determine whether they will be further detained or released.

She also reported that a Glock 9mm pistol with 10 rounds of ammunition was seized and that three men are to be charged with illegal posession of firearm and ammunition, another two for breaches of the  Dangerous Drugs Act, and another was held on a warrant.

The state of public emergency was yesterday announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during a press briefing at Jamaica House in Kingston.

Initially, it will be in effect for two weeks and will cover Spanish Town and its environs, Bog Walk, Linstead, Jones Avenue, Shelter Rock, Lake's Pen, Sligoville, and several other communities in the division which have been affected by criminal activities.

According to the prime minister: “Under these enhanced security measures the security forces will have extraordinary powers and some rights will be suspended,” Holness said.

Additionally, he said, “The security forces will have the power to search, curtail operating hours of businesses, access to places, and to detain persons without a warrant. People using all roads leading into and out of St Catherine North will be subject to vehicle and personal searches.

Assistant commissioner of police (ACP) and head of St Catherine North, Derrick Knight, who was spotted in the division yesterday, said he welcomes the state of emergency and is confident it will put a dent in the high incidence of murder in the division.

“The division recorded 48 murders as of this morning. Clearly it is a concern for the security and the country. The PM announced the state of emergency this morning and we know it will impact on the parish, and by extension Jamaica, because the reduction will impact right across Jamaica,” Knight said.

According to ACP Knight, St Catherine North is one of the divisions with the highest murder rate since the start of the year, and clearly presents a challenge.

However, he said he is hoping that the state emergency will not only result in the recovery of illegal weapons and ammunition but will result in the arrest of most, if not all of the 10 most wanted men in the division, as well as the 10 persons of interest who are influencing the violence.

Yesterday, when the Jamaica Observer visited Spanish Town and neighbouring communities, most residents welcomed the initiative and wished for its success in reducing the mayhem in the division.

“Mi kinda glad fi it; only wrongdoer no glad,” Antonio Parks, a vendor from Frazer's Content, said.

“It a good thing. Mi ongle nuh want dem come in a trouble we; just do them work,“ he added.

Another man, who declined to give his name and had gathered as part of a group: “Mi glad fi see di police and soldier. We have no problem wid dem, a just peace and love we want.

“Maybe me can sleep little better tonight,” a woman who was a part of the group chimed in.

Anthony Clarke, who was spotted at a cookshop in Spanish Town, where he works as a chef, stated: “We woulda really hope it make a difference ... too much killing a gwaan.”

His boss, Mark Fagan, said: “The violence needs to stop, so we welcome anything fi mek it drop.”

A taxi driver who was seen loading his car at the taxi stand and gave his name only as C Duncan, said, “Very wonderful, I think it will make a difference. Dem need to implement more, and for a longer time; no ease up till three months time.”

However, a female vendor who operates a shop near the bus park said that while she is not opposed to the state of emergency and hopes that it will get the desired results, she would rather the authorities just increased the security personnel already inside the business community, as the state of emergency is going to negatively impact her livelihood.

“Business already slow. Now when people see the increase police and soldier dem nuh 'fraid,. Nobody nah stop now,” she said.

According to her, she is not very optimistic that the state of emergency will have any significant impact on crime because people are committing crimes out of need and a lack of other options.

“If I was a bad man I gone. Dem nah ketch no big fish, bare fryers,” she said.

According to her, “Crime and violence nah go stop without poor people being empowered or without Government helping them to find a way out.”

Yesterday, during the Observer's visit, a fairly large joint group of security personnel was seen in the vicinity of the Central Village Police Station conducting spot checks of vehicles exiting and entering Spanish Town and causing a build-up of traffic along Mandela Highway.

A smaller group of security personnel was seen on St John's Road near Frazer's Content conducting another spot check exercise. However, only a handful of security personnel were seeing on patrol in Spanish Town and in adjoining areas.

In the meantime, ACP Knight has appealed for the cooperation of residents in the division.

“We are asking for the cooperation of every single citizen. We are asking persons to tell what they know, use the medium that is available — Crime Stop — call the nearest police station, call individuals that you can trust and give the information, because we want to recover the firearms and take out the persons who are giving the problem. And in this case we have two major gangs, but the Klansman is the gang that is giving us most problem right now and would account for three-quarter of the murders in this space.

“So we are asking for general cooperation. Walk with your IDs and be receptive towards what is happening and the process should go smoothly,” he added.

He also warned that commuters to expect traffic delays and advised them to make allowance for the delay.

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