JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The House of Representatives on Tuesday (July 23) approved a 90-day extension of the States of Public Emergency (SOEs) in the parishes of St. James, Westmoreland and Hanover until October 28.
  • In his address, Prime Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, noted that the premature discontinuation of strong actions, such as the State of Public Emergency, does not serve the country well.
  • “Our efforts in protecting the future of this country are, therefore, far from routine. Instead, they reflect our resolve to remain persistent and true to the task of transforming this country to a society that is safe, secure, cohesive and just,” he said.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday (July 23) approved a 90-day extension of the States of Public Emergency (SOEs) in the parishes of St. James, Westmoreland and Hanover until October 28.

In his address, Prime Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, noted that the premature discontinuation of strong actions, such as the State of Public Emergency, does not serve the country well.

“Our efforts in protecting the future of this country are, therefore, far from routine. Instead, they reflect our resolve to remain persistent and true to the task of transforming this country to a society that is safe, secure, cohesive and just,” he said.

Mr. Holness informed that over the period January 2018 to January 31, 2019, an SOE was declared for the parish of St. James. He noted that the impact of the measure was reflected in the murder figure for the parish, which was reduced from 341 in 2017 to 102 in 2018.

“This House was not able to bring consensus for us to continue this measure. The result of that was a resurgence of violent crimes and gang activity in the parish. These factors contributed to the declaration of another SOE on April 30, 2019,” he said.

Mr. Holness noted that the strategic decision taken was to include the three contiguous parishes – St. James, Hanover and Westmoreland.

“Since the implementation of the States of Public Emergency over the period April 30 to July 21, murders and shootings in the parish of St. James have reduced by 40 per cent and 27 per cent respectively, when compared to the equivalent period, that is February 5, 2019 to April 28, 2019, prior to the declaration,” he said.

The Prime Minister informed that murders and shooting in the parish of Westmoreland have reduced by 74 per cent and 70 per cent, when compared to the equivalent period prior to the declaration.

In addition, murders and shootings in Hanover have also reduced, with a 33 per cent reduction in murders and an 80 per cent reduction in shootings when compared to the equivalent period prior to the declaration.

“Notwithstanding these gains, the tri-parish region continues to raise significant security concerns nationally. Despite the reductions in murders and shootings, which have been achieved since the start of the States of Public Emergency, the aggregate number of murders – 149 – in the specified area has remained relatively high,” Prime Minister Holness said.

“Cumulatively, the three parishes have accounted for 20 per cent of the murders committed throughout the country over the period January 1, 2019 to the present,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister pointed out that the measures that have been employed to fight crime are not perfect and not without risks.

“But we went through a process of ensuring that our security forces understood that the use of these emergency powers, these enhanced powers, must be done with respect for the citizens,” he said.

During the SOEs, the security forces have the power to search, curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without a warrant.