Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, has announced States of Public Emergency (SOEs) for the parishes of Westmoreland, Hanover and St. James.
“After careful consideration and review of the crime statistics, in particular violent crimes which have been committed in some western parishes, the security forces have advised that the current situation would warrant the Government advising the Governor-General to declare/proclaim States of Public Emergency,” the Prime Minister said, during a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister on Tuesday (April 30).
Mr. Holness said the Governor-General has declared that a State of Public Emergency exist in the community of the entire area comprising the parishes of St. James, Hanover and Westmoreland.
“This proclamation shall, unless previously revoked, remain in place for 14 days or for such longer period not exceeding three months,” the Governor-General said.
Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson, gave reasons for the declaration of the SOEs.
According to data outlined by the Commissioner, between January 1 and April 28 this year, 29 persons were murdered in Westmoreland; 27 persons were murdered in St. James and 18 persons were murdered in Hanover.
In 2018, some 97 persons were murdered in Westmoreland; 84 persons were murdered in Hanover and 55 persons were murdered in St. James.
“In 2018… the parish of Westmoreland was the most murder-dense place in the country, followed by the parish of Hanover. If you look at what has happened since the beginning of 2019, you will notice that Westmoreland is ahead. Westmoreland is now leading, St. James has gone up 70 per cent over where it was last year at this point, and Hanover is still significantly high,” he said.
For his part, Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Rocky Meade, said at dawn today, both the JDF and Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) deployed their members to the parishes of St. James, Westmoreland and Hanover.
The SOEs will give the security forces temporary additional powers, including powers of search, arrest and detention.
During the SOEs, the security forces will have the power to search, curtail operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without a warrant.
A State of Public Emergency was first declared in St. James on January 18, 2018 by the Prime Minister. It ended on January 31, 2019.