Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, says the Ministry will be moving forward with additional social intervention initiatives in St. James, aimed at curbing crime in the parish.
Dr. Chang, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, was addressing a press briefing on November 20 at the Freeport Police Station in St. James, after touring the Coral Gardens, Mt. Salem and Freeport police stations in the parish.
The Minister noted that chief among the initiatives is the merger of the Cornwall Automotive Training Institute (CATI) and the HEART/NSTA Trust training facility in Flanker to become the Caribbean Military Technical Training Centre, under the management of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
“We will have training for the local personnel through the Jamaica National Service Corps, and they will be doing both the military skill set [as well as] technical training,” Dr. Chang noted.
“They will [also] get [to do] strong character development work with the military. We are offering activities that the young men want to do. Young men are involved in crime, but they all know that is a short life even if it is luxurious, and they will be willing to do more positive activities when they know it’s safe to do so and they command the respect of the community,” the Minister said.
Another community that has benefited from social interventions in the parish is Mt. Salem. Data from the Ministry indicate that the community, which was declared a Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) in September 2017, has undergone three years of implementation and has seen the community transition, achieving significant investments in human development and physical transformation of more than $200 million.
This expenditure has been channelled towards significant improvement in the infrastructure of the community.
For his part, Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson, said that improvements are still needed in the parish as far as policing is concerned; however, it is trending in the right direction, as community engagement has increased in St. James.
“In this year, clearly the COVID-19 pandemic led to opportunities for the St. James team to get more and more involved in various aspects of the community. It gave the team an opportunity to intervene in those communities with good partners, good stakeholders like the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), local businesses here in St. James, which came on board to assist in communities where things were more difficult than elsewhere,” he noted.
Anderson added that the St. James Division of the JCF also played a major role in getting schoolwork to and from some 250 students in the parish who are without Internet access.
The Commissioner also noted that in addition to the social intervention initiatives put in place, the JCF Quick Response team in the parish is also to be credited for the downward trend in crimes in the parish.
“It was just a year ago when we did the launch of the Quick Response team in the parish, a motorcycle-based team, and their effectiveness has even exceeded our expectations of what we hoped that they would be able to do over the period that they have been operating,” the Commissioner said.
“It’s clear that the model of that needs to be extended to other places across the island, including Kingston, and we are in the process of acquiring the necessary assets to do that. So, it’s not too long from now that a similar sort of team, probably larger, will be in the Kingston metropolitan area,” Mr. Anderson informed.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner lauded the St. James Division’s recovery of several illegal weapons in the parish, particularly over the last year.
“They have found and recovered at least twice the number of guns as the next highest police division in the country, over the year. So, kudos to the team here is St. James, ably supported by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF),” Mr. Anderson said.
Data from the Ministry of National Security indicate that during the 281-day period from November 11, 2019 to August 17, 2020, when both the Quick Response Team and the State of Public Emergency were in operation within the St. James Division, there were 93 murders, 97 shooting incidents, and the recovery of 90 illegal firearms.
This represented a 24 per cent reduction in murders, a 12 per cent reduction in shootings, and an 18 per cent increase in the recovery of illegal firearms, when compared to the similar prior period.
Dr. Chang and Major General Anderson were accompanied on the tour of police stations by Commander of the Area One Police Division, Assistant Commissioner, Clifford Chambers; Commanding Officer of the St. James Police Division, Superintendent Vernon Ellis; and Officials from the Ministry.