MONTEGO BAY, St James — Head of the Area One Police Division Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Clifford Chambers has expressed confidence that the recently imposed states of emergency (SOEs) in three parishes in western Jamaica will reap success in the suppression of crime, similar to last year's enhanced security measure in the region.
Three parishes —St James, Hanover and Westmoreland—in Area One are among the seven parishes across the island in which SOE were imposed on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness also announced SOEs in those three western parishes and sections of the Corporate Area on November 14, 2021.
At that time, the prime minister said, since the start of the year, there were 272 murder victims, which represent 22 per cent of the national figure, while 214 were shot and injured, also representing 22 per cent of the national figure, in those three western parishes.
SOEs were also declared in the same western parishes in April 2019 to combat crime and violence.
At the end of the enhanced security measure, the police reported that there was a roughly 25 per cent decline in murders and 28 per cent reduction in shootings.
Those figures, according to the police, are similar to when the SOEs were imposed in the region last year.
"My expectation is that we will get similar results as when the last SOE was around. If one should judge, based on history, I can only presume, with some level of certainty, that that will happen," ACP Chambers told the Jamaica Observer West on Tuesday.
"So that's our expectation, for us to use the emergency powers to really impact some high value targets, some violence influencers. We have force multiplier with the military and we're hoping that with that force multiplier effect on the ground, we will be able to cover a wider space and therefore be more impactful," he added.
On Tuesday, the senior cop noted that since the start of the year, the St James Police Division recorded 47 more murders over the corresponding period last year; an increase of 24 in Westmoreland, while Hanover had an increase of three.
According to information released by the Jamaica Constabulary Force, up to November 5 this year, 181 murders were recorded in St James; 40 in the neighbouring parish of Hanover and 126 in Westmoreland.
ACP Chambers attributed most of the killings in the western parishes to intra-gang activities, among other factors.
"We're seeing a 16 percentage increase in domestic violence that results in murders, but in the main, it is gangs. And the issue that makes it a little bit more complicated now is that it's not gang on one side on gang on another side, it is intra-gang conflicts that are creating the problem, which presents more challenges in fighting. The persons are from one gang, one community, they know each other, they know each other's relatives, friends, associates. They know the secondary location of each other because they're all in a gang and so we're having that complexity," he argued.
He added that to compound the matter, "we're seeing the issue of the criminals moving out of the hot spot dominated place that we have police so well into areas that are not generally a hot spot".
"And so murders have been committed on the outskirts, in the Maroon Town and those places there which were not generally hot spots. And those areas are big, they are wide, they are rural and again they are hilly and therefore provide a little bit more complexity in terms of operational posture," said ACP Chambers.
The recent imposition of SOEs in western Jamaica is in addition to zones of special operations (ZOSOs) now in Mount Salem and Norwood in St James; and Savanna-la-Mar in Westmoreland.
ACP Chambers noted that the three ZOSOs have resulted in a significant reduction in major crimes compared to the period before they were imposed.
" And again that [ZOSOs] pose some challenges too because it pushes out some violence influencers and so the police are now in the business also of not just policing a location as so prescribed by the zones [of special operations], but policing violence influencers, high value target and the secondary locations that are outside the zones," he added.
He expressed confidence that the security forces will not trample on citizens' human rights during the recently imposed enhanced security measure.
"The team has done this before, the team has rolled out effective policing without breaching persons' human rights on a lot of occasions and it continues to get better. The team has also been trained. And we do have internal agencies which are also monitoring. So I would just say that...what has been put in place by the powers that be, the execution of it will be done with human rights consideration, without any intent to breach anyone human rights as also that of the police," Chambers told the Observer West.
"A lot of persons don't realise that the police are also citizens, soldiers are also citizens of this country. And outside of them officially on duty these rights also ascribed to them, so we have no such intention. But the training was provided; the training has been put in practice before, and if you look at the last SOE there were negligible reports of such breach. There was a case in recent time when the Government was taken to task and a lot of lessons were learnt from those breaches to ensure that there was not a repeat."