We give God thanks for sparing our lives to see 2023, and we give thanks for the lives of loved ones and other great Jamaicans who transitioned last year. We embrace the New Year with optimism and positive energy, knowing that our earnest efforts will determine the success we make of the time given to us.
We have been earnest in our efforts in the past year in controlling crime, particularly murders, and improving public order. It cannot be disputed that Jamaica has an epidemic of violence, which results in intentional killings. Guns are the main enabling weapons used by violence producers, and ease of access to guns of itself extensifies fatal violence. Last year, we took a major step in deterring the procurement, possession, trafficking, and use of guns by passing a new Firearms Act which has totally transformed the legislative framework around legal and illegal guns in Jamaica. It is mow a minimum 15 years to life for a person convicted of an illegal gun offense. Since the coming into force of the new Firearms Act on the 1st of November 2022 last year, over 70 persons, that is a rate of one person per day, mostly young men between 16 and 30, are being charged with offenses relating to illegal guns. The security forces are increasing their surveillance, intelligence, and operational capabilities to detect and recover illegal firearms and those using or possessing them. This means that the rate of arrest for illegal firearm offenses will increase. I want to take this opportunity to appeal to our young men who are both the perpetrators of gun crime and the victims of gun crimes, to turn away from guns, avoid persons who you know have guns or have dealings with guns. The probability of you being arrested and taken out of society for at least 15 years is increasing daily. Throw away the gun, don’t throw away your life. In the next few months, we will take amendments to Parliament to significantly increase the penalty for murder to over 30 years, we will streamline the bail process with passage of a new Bail Act, a new Corrections Bill will be tabled, a Fingerprint bill will be tabled, and an Enhanced Security Measures Bill will be tabled as well. This year, a clear message will be sent to violence producers that law enforcement and the criminal justice system is not a revolving door. Criminals will begin to understand that we are changing the risk-reward dynamic of crime in Jamaica. The probability of being caught is great, the penalty for crimes is high, and the opportunities and loopholes to escape justice are being closed. Already we are seeing the impact of the use of emergency powers, the new Firearms Act, and various joint enforcement operations, on murder numbers. We were able to reduce the number of murders and save more lives in November and December 2022 thereby significantly bringing down the murder rate at the end of 2022. Your government is steadily building out the legal framework that is appropriate to treat with those determined to perpetuate violence in our society.
I should also mention that the new Road Traffic Act will come into effect on February 1, 2023. This will go a far way in bringing order to our roadways. Motorists are encouraged to address their outstanding tickets at the courts before the new law takes effect. Motorcyclists are both a significant cause and victim of road crashes. The new law makes it mandatory that all riders and pillions must wear a helmet and that motorbikes must be sold with helmets. The capability of the police to issue electronic tickets will more than double with the arrival of e-ticketing devices in the next few weeks. Under this new system warrants will be issued in a seamless and timely manner. Traffic violators will no longer be able to ignore tickets they have accumulated and continue to drive recklessly without consequences.
2023 is the year when Jamaica will start to see a sustained reduction in violent crimes, particularly murders, and see an increase in public order and safety as well.
As we bid farewell to 2022 and welcome the dawn of the New Year 2023, there are many things of which we as a nation can be proud and many things for which we must be thankful.
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