Clarendon SOE was overdue, says PM

Clarendon SOE was overdue, says PM

Senior staff reporter

Friday, September 06, 2019

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the country yesterday that the state of public emergency (SOE) declared for Clarendon was overdue, but the necessary resources had to be put in place first.

He said the Government is cognisant that it is stretching its resources with several SOEs across the island at the same time, but the security forces have already calculated the challenges.

“Yes, I'm always concerned about stretching our resources to the limit, but in management sometimes you recognise that you don't know your true limit until you have tested it, and the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force) and the JDF (Jamaica Defence Force) continue to prove that they can stand up to the challenges. But we also know there are hard limits in terms of human resources,” Holness said at yesterday's press conference, where he announced SOEs for Clarendon and St Catherine.

The emergency security measure will initially be for two weeks, after which Parliamentary approval must be sought for an extension.

Holness assured that capacity is being beefed up continuously through a vigorous recruitment policy for the JCF and the JDF.

He pointed to the national service corps which is being administered by the JDF and the JCF's recently announced new recruitment strategy.

“So we are trying to expand, but the expansion doesn't come into effect right away; it takes time to train and then you have to give them some experience, and that process is ongoing. We are able to do this today precisely because we have invested in increasing the capacity of both the JCF and the JDF. I'm not telling you that it is without sacrifice and challenge, but we can say with a certainty that we have taken into consideration all potential threats and challenges and the deployment will be of the standard that the public has grown accustomed to,” Holness said.

Again, he stressed that the SOEs are not being used as a substitute for regular policing, pointing out that notwithstanding the measure “the triple threat of gangs, guns, and dons continue to exist”.

He said the SOE provides a respite in the number of murders, expands the number of law enforcement personnel on the ground, restricts the free movement of criminals, and gives regular policing an increased ability to work.

“It has given greater capacity to regular law enforcement to do regular law enforcement, so it helps, and we are not relying on it as the only tool. We are using all the tools,” he said.

Holness said the Government's objective is to bring down the murder rate to at least the regional average.

“We can do it,” he said, “we are one year already into that five-year plan and we have moved our homicide rate from 61 per hundred thousand to 47 per hundred thousand. The objective is to further bring that down.”

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