'BRING IT BACK'

Western News

'BRING IT BACK'

Area One Police head supports call for return of SOE to St James

BY HORACE HINES
Observer West reporter

Thursday, January 21, 2021

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MONTEGO BAY, St James - Head of the Area One Police Division, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Clifford Chambers, has come out in support of calls for the reimplementation of the state of emergency (SOE) in St James, as part of efforts to stem the bloodletting in the parish.

The enhanced security measure, which was introduced in the parish in January 2018, has been credited for the reduction of murders which spiked to a record high of 342 in 2017.

Last year, the parish recorded some 127 murders which were 26 less than the 153 registered the previous year.

However, since the start of this year, some 16 people have been killed, compared to two, over the corresponding period in 2020.

The SOE came to an end in St James last August and since then there has been an upward trend in homicides, eliciting calls for a return of the enhanced security measure in the parish.

Last weekend, the recent flare-up of gang violence in the western parish resulted in the murder of seven people.

On Sunday, alleged gangsters struck in the inner-city community of Quarry, killing two individuals — 76-year-old Estriana Wilson and 48-year-old painter Dwight McCallum.

The cold-blooded killing of the senior citizen, who was shot despite pleading to the shooters for mercy, came less than 48 hours after another double murder in the Hollywood area of Norwood, where 47-year-old bus 'loader' Donovan Reid, also called Dummy, a deaf mute, of Hollywood, Norwood; and 20-year-old unemployed Nicardo Daley of Montego Hills, were gunned down by rampaging gangsters.

Hours later, Aubrey Brown was shot dead at his gate by the gunmen as they continued their shooting spree, this time in the Irie Drive section of Norwood.

ACP Chambers told the Jamaica Observer West earlier this week that the state of emergency is a useful crime-fighting tool.

He pointed out that gang violence is behind the latest spike in murders in the parish, arguing that among the reasons he would support the SOE is that the measure would provide the opportunity “to be better able to deploy our resources to cover a wider geographical space”.

“You will realise that in Montego Bay for instance, there are a lot of warring factions... now with the support of the military with additional authority that can be provided, then it means that we will be able to cover a wider geographical space, impacting a wider amount of gangs and, therefore, somehow, put a lid on the ease on which they move around and commit crime. That's one element of it,” the senior cop noted.

He further underscored that the SOE would also provide law enforcers with the powers to strike at known gangsters, even in the absence of evidence to charge them.

“Another element of it [SOE], is that it would give us much wider powers to work to somehow target those who we don't necessarily have the evidence to arrest and charge; but to contain them somehow and restrict their movement. And there is an ambit of the regulations also that give us the authority, if you will, with reason, to somehow cause persons of a certain dispensation... criminal intent to not venture... go into particular communities and therefore will make it easy for law-abiding citizens to operate. And also keep them [hoodlums] out of a space that they are comfortable in the execution of criminal activities,” stated the head of the Area One Police Division.

He noted that in response to the upsurge of violence the police have stepped up operations, including the imposition of five curfews in the parish since the start of the year, in an effort to apprehend criminals.

“People are moving around with guns, people are being killed. So we have to act as a law enforcement to contain and to negate and to arrest and prosecute those who are responsible and thereby providing the general public with a security of themselves and their environment and their property,” ACP Chambers stated.

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte, who is also Member of Parliament for St James West Central, and who was among a touring party headed by National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, which visited both Quarry and Norwood on Monday, explained that she is “ now reviewing the revised policy for the Bail Act and we are now in a third or fourth round of Enhanced Security Measures Act”.

“ It is my intention, also, to ask for an expedited hearing of the appeal dealing with the state of public emergency that is now before the Court of Appeal,” she said.

Dr Chang, who is also the political representative for both communities where the most recent double murders were committed, sought to assure the public that the presence of the security forces will be further increased in the troubled spots.

“The police intend to increase the activities; we are not deterred by this kind of brazenness. We will increase the curfew and cordons, we will increase the curfews...” the security minister assured.

He noted that the gangsters will also be pursued by the Fugitive Apprehension and Special Operations teams and “once they have been identified and their location can be clearly known they will be apprehended and prosecuted”.

He added that the entire intelligence apparatus of the security forces is centred on the gangs and getting the guns and disrupting their operations throughout and apprehending especially the leadership of the gangs.

Meanwhile, ACP Chambers noted that the police have taken into custody 'persons of interest' in connection with the recent flare-up of violence in the affected communities.

“Persons have been taken into custody who are persons of interest and who we are confident will help us in our investigation.

No one charged yet, but arrests have been made,” he stressed.

“We want to implore the general public to reach out to the police with any information they believe can assist our investigation.”


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