- Mr. Speaker, the declaration of the Mount Salem Zone community as the first Zone of Special Operations on September 1, 2017 was a landmark event in the history of Jamaica
- Mr. Speaker, already, there has been noted progress in the willingness of citizens to partner with the State to remove the presence of: violence producers, wanted persons, illegal firearms and even illegal immigrants from their community.
- Without question, the positive impact on the circumstances of this small but significant community of approximately 3,600 strong, continues to provide motivation and has propelled even greater enthusiasm towards achieving meaningful changes to the lives of many Jamaicans.
Mr. Speaker, as I stand here today; it is of grave concern to all Jamaicans, regardless of political persuasion that our murder rate is rising; and now stands at approximately 300 above the figure for the corresponding period last year.
Mr. Speaker, the driving factors are well known; gang warfare compounded by extortion, lottery scamming, drugs and contract killings account for over 70% of murders committed with estimates as high as 80%.
However, Mr. Speaker, there is still a very high level of murders driven by non-organized criminal activity; in other words by the inability to resolve conflicts peacefully.
All of this is further compounded by a national crisis that has reached epidemic proportions, the prevalence and ease of access to guns and ammunition.
The Government considers this to be a national emergency and will expand on the strategies to deal with this issue at a later date.
Already some of the strategies we are employing are yielding greater results; we have recovered 726 firearms, including 62 rifles to date as compared to 515 firearms, including 32 rifles this time in 2016.
In terms of ammunition for the corresponding period, the figures show an increase of almost three times that of the related period last year, moving to 20,491 rounds compared to 7,341 rounds.
While recovery has increased, we need to enforce greater control measures to ensure that we curb the flow of guns and ammunition into the country.