Gov't gets support for public state of emergency

BY MARK CUMMINGS
Editor-at-Large
WESTERN BUREAU
cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 19, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James —The Government's decision to impose a state of public emergency in St James, has received overwhelming support from several individuals and groups across the western parish.

“I support the move. St James has been in the news for quite some time as it relates to crime, so the state of public emergency will be of great help. It will allow the security forces to do more detentions and cordons and searches without a warrant,” argued Mayor of Montego Bay, Homer Davis.

“We need some drastic measures to deal with the crime problem, because we cannot continue like this, and I believe that we will get the necessary results that we desire from the state of emergency.”

In recent years the parish of St James has seen a marked increase in crime and violence, especially murders.

Last year, approximately 335 murders were recorded in the parish.

Since the start of the year, there have been several shooting deaths, the latest of which was the brazen daylight killing of a motorist several metres from the Sangster International Airport.

The announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to call the state of public emergency came just over four months after Mount Salem in St James was declared the first Zone of Special Operations in the parish.

Government senator Charles Sinclair has long called for the imposition of a state of emergency in the parish, in an effort to arrest the parish's worsening crime problem.

Yesterday, Senator Sinclair, who is also the councillor (JLP) for the Flanker Division, welcomed Holness' announcement.

“Where we have reached [as far as crime and violence is concerned] it is affecting both visitors to the island and locals, so we need to band our bellies and cooperate with the security forces in an effort to cauterise crime,” Sinclair argued.

He said that he strongly believes that the latest crime-fighting initiative would “put a dent in criminal activities”.

“I feel confident that it [state of public emergency] will result in a reduction of murders. I have seen that for myself in 2010 in West Kingston,” he stressed.

He pointed out however, that at the end of the state of public emergency, the requisite social intervention must be in place in a bid to maintain calm in the parish.

President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, T'Shura Gibbs said while “it is unfortunate that the Government would have to use a state of emergency” to address the crime problem, the chamber will support the move.

She stressed, however, that the initiative will not address the root cause of St James' chronic crime problem.

Meanwhile, from before 6:00 am yesterday, the security forces were deployed to several sections of the parish, including Flanker, Norwood, Salt Spring, Rose Heights and in the downtown area of Montego Bay, conducting searches.

Our news team observed a number of the lawmen stopping and searching vehicles, as well as passengers.

A number of houses were also searched, particularly in several inner-city communities, which have figured prominently in the parish's murder toll.

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