St James police lauded for drop in major crimes

Observer West reporter

Thursday, November 26, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James - Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang has commended the St James Police Division for being the only police division which has shown a reduction in major crimes since the states of public emergency (SOEs) ended in August just over two weeks ahead of the September 3 General Election.

He revealed that since the lifting of the enhanced security measure the division has seen a 16 per cent reduction in murders, as well as a 26 per cent drop in shootings.

“This [St James] is the only [police] division in which the 92-day period since the lifting of the states of emergency in August we continue to see improvements, and I want to specially commend the men and women of the division: the commanders, Superintendent [Vernon] Ellis [Jamaica Constabulary Force], and Colonel [Garth] Anderson [Jamaica Defence Force], who have shown a willingness to work together, to work as a team; there is no petty jealousy, no differences. They work as a team for the benefit of the people of St James and have certainly added to the model that we need for good effective security in Jamaica,” Dr Chang argued.

“To provide safety, we need that kind of commitment from the security forces, led by the police because public safety is a police activity. The support of the JDF [Jamaica Defence Force] is important, but we have the public safety, investigation in crime, taking the criminals to court, that is all police work.”

Dr Chang, who is also the deputy prime minister and Member of Parliament for St James North West, also lauded the police division for an 18 per cent increase in the recovery of illegal firearms over the period, as he expressed alarm at the high-calibre rifles among the weapons that the police have managed to remove from the streets of the parish.

“The firearms we find in St James are not exactly pop guns. They [criminals] treat .38 [pistol] now like a toy. When I read the reports, I am seeing military grade AR-15, M-16, AK-47 and Intratech 9,” he noted.

“A machine pistol in an inner-city area where police officers have to patrol is a most dangerous equipment to have. They are small, so they are very easy to carry around…and they usually carry anywhere from 18 to 48 rounds, and they are machine pistols, they fire at a rapid rate and that is what they use to spray, as they call it.”

The national security minister added, however, that, “We are not saying we are out of the woods, let me just dismiss that thought.”

And underscoring that, even as the police division has been reaping success, Dr Chang expressed that the national consensus on crime is that whenever homicides exceed “32 per 100,000, the commissioner of police and the chief of staff, based on their intelligence require enhanced security measures, which are SOEs, and if it is a small area, zones of special operations, and the Government will seek to ensure that they get that”.

“Although St James is moving in the right direction, we are still too high. And if necessary we will have to introduce special enhanced measures because 100 [murders] is still too high. The men and women are working hard 24/7, but the agreement in our consensus is 32 per 100,000. If you take St James, we are still in the region of 48 or so per 100,000. But coming from where it was, we are doing well, but we are not where we should be,” Dr Chang argued.

“It is not only in St James...we still need enhanced security measures in St James, and we need it elsewhere in the island even more rapidly.”

In addition to the SOEs and “the hard-working police and military personnel”, Dr Chang attributed the gains in the parish to the introduction of a quick response motorbike squad, initiated by divisional commander, Superintendent Ellis, a raft of social intervention activities, as well as Jamaica's first zone of special operations (ZOSO), which was declared in Mount Salem, St James, in September 2017.

Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson, who also lauded the St James police, concurred that “it [crime] is not where we want it yet, but it is trending in the right direction”.

“And a lot of the success that we have been seeing here is as a result of a number of initiatives that have been put in place here by the team in St James,” the police commissioner told reporters during a tour of police stations in the Montego Bay area last Friday.

Among the initiatives he highlighted was that the quick response team which was launched a year ago, and which he announced, will be replicated in other police divisions.

“Persons can recall, I think just one week past a year, where the launch of a quick response team in St James, a motorcycle-based team, and their effectiveness has even exceeded our expectations of what we hope that they would be able to do in St James over the period in which they have been operating,” Commissioner Anderson said.

“It's clear that the model of that needs to be extended to other places across the island, including in Kingston, and we are in the process of acquiring the necessary assets to do that as we speak. So, it should be not too long from now that a similar sort of team, probably a little larger, will be in the Kingston metropolitan area operating there.”

Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Clifford Chambers, commander of the Area One Police Division, which covers the parishes of Trelawny, St James, Hanover and Westmoreland, also commended the Superintendent Ellis-led St James team, as he promised residents of the parish to expect a strong police presence during the Christmas period.

“I must say kudos...congratulations to the team here and as we move into the Yuletide season we can assure the general public that our presence will be more out there and it will be felt,” ACP Chambers remarked.

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