SOEs not intended to replace crime strategies, says Johnson Smith

Monday, July 22, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Leader of Government Business and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith says states of emergency (SOEs) are not intended to replace all strategies or plans geared at restoring citizen security.

“It should be clear however that it has been proven indisputable to deliver results by saving lives,” Johnson Smith said in her address to the Senate on Friday.

She noted that the SOE in the St Andrew South Police Division, which was declared on July 7, yielded positive results within the first seven days.

“In the week July 7 to 13 of this very year, we note the positive result of the division having experienced only one murder and one shooting,” she said.

The minister, who was speaking as the Senate approved extension of the SOE in the division until October 5, 2019, pointed out that between January 1 and July 2, 2019, the division recorded the highest number of murders, with 94 cases and the highest number of shootings with 98 cases, among all police divisions in the country.

She said the division accounted for 14 per cent of all murders and 15 per cent of all shooting incidents across all police divisions in Jamaica.

Johnson Smith said the figure reflects that there has been a 19 per cent increase in murders and 40 per cent increase in shooting incidents in the division for the corresponding period last year.

“If the rate of murders experienced over that period were allowed to continue without intervention, it's predicted that it would result in as many as 190 murders in the division and would represent an increase of 28 per cent when compared with the relevant period in 2018 when 148 murders were recorded in the division, already a frightening number of lives lost,” she said.

Johnson Smith said the impact of gang warfare has instilled consistent fear among the residents and has caused significant disruption to the livelihood of citizens in sections of the division.

“Residents are unable to traverse communities freely due to fear of being targeted by gangs or getting caught in cross fire or other altercations,” she noted.

Johnson Smith said the declaration of the state of public emergency has thus far allowed the security forces to conduct operations designed to target and disrupt gangs and organised criminal networks; apprehend wanted persons, seize illegal weapons, ammunition and narcotics; target the proceeds of illegal activities; deter extortion; and reduce freedom of movement of criminal elements.

She said as operations continue the strategy moving forward will seek to return the division to a state where normal policing can continue to be effectively performed.

The senator further noted that areas in which SOEs have been declared on the advice of the security forces, lives have been saved, noting that last year alone, St James experienced a 70 per cent reduction in murders as a result of a state of emergency.

The minister said as a result of the tri-parish state of emergency declared again in St James, but also in Westmoreland and Hanover, when compared to the two months prior to its declaration, each parish has experienced a reduction of murders of 65 per cent, 76 per cent and 56 per cent, respectively.

The SOEs will give the security forces temporary additional powers, including powers of search, arrest and detention.

During the SOEs, the security forces will have the power to search, curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without a warrant.


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