Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, has declared a State of Public Emergency in the St. Catherine North Police Division effective Sunday (March 18).
A joint Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF)/Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) team was deployed to the area this morning to undertake enhanced security measures for an initial 14 days, in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act.
Addressing a press conference at Jamaica House on Sunday, Mr. Holness noted that this decision is necessary as crime and violence, particularly murders, have been escalating in that police division.
The area has recorded 49 murders since the start of the year, due mainly to gang activity.
“Under these enhanced security measures, the security forces will have extraordinary powers and some (citizens’) rights will be suspended,” the Prime Minister said.
He advised that the security forces will have the power to search; detain persons without a warrant; and curtail the operating hours of businesses as well as access to venues.
Additionally, all persons using roads leading into and out of St. Catherine North and their vehicles will be subject to search.
“In various areas, there will be joint static and mobile patrols. Persons may also be stopped at various checkpoints,” the Prime Minister further indicated.
Mr. Holness assured, however, that this does not mean that the security forces use of this authority can be arbitrary or are beyond review.
“The security forces are expected and have been directed to treat citizens with respect and (to) protect the dignity and safety of all Jamaicans,” he emphasized
Mr. Holness said the Proclamation under the Emergency Powers Act to bring the enhanced security measures into effect was signed by Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, and has been gazetted.
The State of Public Emergency in St. Catherine North is the second such follow a similar declaration in St. James in January.