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SOE slows down murder rate in the west

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

MONTEGO BAY, St James – Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang says the police have reported that murders have dropped since the declaration of the states of public emergency (SOE) in three western parishes.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced SOEs for the parishes of Westmoreland, Hanover and St James on Tuesday, April 30.

According to data from the police, between January 1 and April 28 this year, 29 people were murdered in Westmoreland; 27 people were murdered in St James; and 18 in Hanover.

In 2018, some 97 people were murdered in Westmoreland; 84 in Hanover; and 55 in St James.

“Since the announcement of the initiation of the second phase of the state of enhanced security measures in western region, the parishes St James, Hanover and Westmoreland, I think we have only had two homicides. In an area where we were going at about two homicides a day, over the last 12 days, we are down to two in the entire period and one took place the night of the announcement at the time,” Dr Chang said.

“The work of the Jamaica Defence Force and the police force in this region has been exceptional over the past few weeks,” said Chang, while speaking yesterday at the Jamaica Defence Force's (JDF) official opening ceremony of the Burke Barracks accommodation in Providence, St James.

Dr Chang, who also disclosed that a police unit dubbed “Mobile West”, is to be established in St James, pointed out that the SOE is not the answer to the crime problem in the west. He said Government is committed to giving support to making the required investments, such as the development of facilities to accommodate members of the security forces in the area, among other strategies.

“The people of this region are feeling safe today but it will not require the continuation of the SOE to ensure that safety continues. It is the development of this type (Burke Barracks ) of infrastructure which will ensure we have adequate numbers of the JDF based here. The entire formation, both maritime and land will be here, and the police force will have the appropriate infrastructure, equipment and personnel and formations to ultimately destroy and disrupt the gangs that are a threat to our social stability,” Dr Chang said.

The security minister said as part of the overall defence strategy to have three geographic commands, the $1.6-billion Burke Barracks project is the first phase for “the garrisonising of a unit in the western area of operations”, to be followed by a larger build out at Montpelier, also in St James.

The development, which will eventually house 528 people, is being constructed in two phases.

The completed first phase, valued at roughly $708.4 million, involved land reclamation, the construction of a two-storey accommodation to house 264 people and the construction of a sewage treatment system.

The second phase, currently under construction, is valued at a little over $896 million and involves the construction of a second two-storey building to accommodate 264 people, additional civil works, pavements, gymnasium and other specific purpose buildings.

“This is to enable a more efficient approach to how JDF operates in the western area of operations as well as providing a better level of comfort for the soldiers to operate,” Dr Chang said.

“The building is being constructed at a cost of $1.6 billion, and I am a pleased to report that the project is within budget and at the required specification,” he said.