MONTEGO BAY, St James – Stressing that pockets of Hanover and St James, and not the entire parishes, were strategically locked down under the latest state of public emergency (SOE), Area One Commander Assistant Commissioner of Police Clifford Chambers has given the current operation a passing grade.
"I wouldn't want to say [it has been] excellent but we have seen improvements," the commanding officer told the Jamaica Observer.
"We are continuing to improve on the performance and we're also continuing to adapt to the new structure of the present state of public emergency," he added.
Chambers told the Observer West that, unlike previous SOEs, the one declared last Tuesday was more targeted. It will last for 14 days.
"The present SOE comes with certain conditionality. It doesn't automatically lend itself to just a total lockdown of the parish. What we have to do is to establish areas which are giving us problems in the parish, and then we use the powers under Regulation Two to apply for curfew within the zone and then we are able to lock down those locations. That's a difference in this SOE and the previous one," he noted.
When an SOE is called, the Government grants the security forces temporary additional powers. These include powers of search (of a person or building) without a warrant; powers of arrest and detention (for up to seven days) without a warrant; and the power to curtail operating hours of businesses. ACP Chambers appeared to suggest that they have been tweaking the measures as needed, specifically as it appears to how they approach large geographic areas.
"Based on lessons learned in recent times we did not see the need to lock down the entire parish. So, though we have restrictive borders where people can be called upon to stop and they give an account, we did not [do that]… As it relates to restrictions from say 6:00 pm to 8:00 am, that kind of lockdown, no, we did not see it necessary for the entire parish," he told Observer West.
ACP Chambers said Providence, Copper Wood and Bogue in St James, along with Haughton Court and Ramble in Hanover — the scene of recent killings — were not regarded as hot spots until recently; these areas are also now under lockdown. So too are St James communities Barrett Town, Rose Heights, Flanker, Norwood, Glendevon, Green Pond, Mount Salem, Ramble Hill, Tucker, Granville, Adelphi, Railroad Lane, Hart Street, King Street and St James Street.
There have been at least seven murders committed in St James and two in Hanover since the implementation of the SOE last week. The senior cop said most of these murders took place in areas that were not previously regarded as crime hot spots. Of those committed in St James, four were outside the areas of concern.
The police say lottery scamming and gang activities have accounted for the crime flare-up in Hanover while lottery scamming, reprisal and counter-reprisal killings, and gang warfare have been blamed for the bloodletting in St James.
ACP Cambers said that since the implementation of the SOE illegal firearms have been seized in both parishes while ammunition was also seized in targeted raids in St James. In addition, three people were arrested in Hanover and one in St James.
He is encouraging communities to be patient and support the security forces.
"We just want to encourage the community to bear with us during this period, and just to encourage them to provide any information they have that will help us advance our cause — and their cause too — of maintaining crime and violence, and keep the criminals on the run," appealed the senior officer.
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