Jamaica’s government has today declared a state of public emergency (SOE) in the parish of St. Catherine, citing rampant criminality and lawlessness.
At a news conference, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the terror being experienced in some communities is a result of criminal activities by gangs, guns and the young men being recruited.
Holness says it is Government’s duty to act, as it cannot sit by and watch innocent Jamaicans have to run for their lives.
The SOE allows the security forces, or authorised individuals, enhanced powers of search and arrest, and limits the right of detained individuals to due process. The measure can only remain in force for 14 days and must get the support of both Houses of Parliament.
However, the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has expressed concerns about the use of SOEs in crime-fighting.
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner, Antony Anderson, who also addressed the news conference, said the SOE in St Catherine is a result of 12 active gang conflicts which have resulted in several murders and shootings in the parish.
He says since the beginning of 2022, 82 people have been arrested for the possession of illegal firearms, ammunition or both and 59 illegal guns have been seized in St. Catherine. In addition, the police have continued to prosecute gangs and gang members and are leading several active community engagement programs across the parish.
However, despite these efforts, Anderson says crime in the parish has continued to spiral out of control, with 70 murders and 51 shootings occurring as of June 15th.
The Police Commissioner says some disruptions and delays are likely as they respond to the violence in St. Catherine and asked for the public’s patience and understanding.
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