Senate approves extension of SOE in St Catherine North

Friday, September 21, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Members of the Senate today voted to extend the State of Public Emergency in the St Catherine North Police Division for another three months.

This follows approval of the Emergency Powers (No 2) (Continuance) (No3) Resolution, 2018, during today's sitting of the Senate.

The security measure, which was slated to end on October 2, will remain in place until January 2, 2019.

All 19 members who were present voted in favour of the extension. Two members were absent.

Addressing the Senate, Leader of Government Business and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson Smith, said the enhanced security measures in the St. Catherine North Police Division have proven to be a highly effective tool in the fight against crime.

"The effectiveness of the State of Emergency is undisputed. Since this year, in fact up to September 19 and particularly since the declaration of the State of Public Emergency, St. Catherine North Division has experienced a 21.2 [per cent] reduction in the number of murders and a 35.5 [per cent] reduction in shootings, when compared to the same period in 2017,” the minister said.

"Overall, murders, shootings, robberies, break-ins, larceny and rape have declined by approximately 32.3 per cent in St. Catherine North. Another way to look at what has been happening in that space is to note that 82 murders and 72 shootings were recorded over a period of 160 days prior to the state of emergency, while during the first 168 days of the state of emergency, 27 murders and 22 shootings were recorded," she added.

The minister also noted that the national murder rate has declined by 20.2 per cent as at September 19, adding that the figure was impacted by the successes of the state of emergency.

Providing figures regarding the number of arrests in the St Catherine North Police Division, she said between March 18 and September 19, the security forces arrested 33 people on charges of murder in respect of 29 reported cases.

Johnson Smith added that during the same period last year, there were 29 arrests out of 70 reported cases of murder

"The success of the state of emergency does not mean that we are where we should be... We are talking about how do we get back to a place of peace and safety where normal policing can suffice?" she said.

The minister said the request for a further extension was based on the recommendation of the security forces and is necessary to satisfy the short- to medium-term objectives of a secure Jamaica.

"We cannot back down now, not when we are making inroads. It will not go on forever; it is not the long-term plan and it is not intended to interfere with the rights of residents to enjoy freedoms to which they are entitled. It is, however, required to get us to a place where normal policing can succeed," she argued.

Johnson Smith said the extended state of public emergency will continue to reduce major and minor crimes, save lives, restore the rule of law and public order, and provide the security forces with opportunities to gather intelligence and carry out their investigations.

She commended the security forces for their hard work and dedication in keeping Jamaicans safe.

Johnson Smith noted that additional information will be provided regarding the operating hours for businesses. "The prime minister has asked the Minister of National Security to have discussions with the heads of the security forces to consider what can be done without impacting the fight against crime," she said. The Resolution was approved in the House of Representatives on September 19.

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