The Prime Minister told a press conference at Jamaica House morning, that security personnel from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) were deployed at midnight to carry out the enhanced security operation.
Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson, said that the Eastern Kingston Police Division has been experiencing a high incidence of violent crimes from the latter part of 2019 and since the start of this year.
He said that the level of crime “is at a scale and nature that greatly endangers public safety.”
“Eastern Kingston has persistently been one of the country’s crime hot spots with several gangs engaged in deadly inter and intra-gang conflicts or other criminal enterprise. Today, there are currently 32 criminal gangs with over 16 now actively engaged in various violent conflicts in the Division. There are 33 wanted persons and another 34 violence influencers within the Division,” he explained.
He said that murders in the Division increased by 16 per cent in 2019, when compared to the previous year, while shootings increased by 49 per cent. He said that 67 per cent of these incidents were related to gang activities.
“In 2019, we recovered 36 firearms along with 622 rounds of ammunition in East Kingston alone. Already, since the start of 2020, the Eastern Kingston Division has recorded 11 murders when compared with the three (murders) during the corresponding period last year,” he said.
Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, in his remarks, noted that the areas extending from upper Mountain View to Rockfort along the coastline “continue to have a serious increase in…homicides.”
He said that the Government is therefore obligated to take strong steps to protect the lives of the law-abiding citizens.
“The security forces will take all steps required to apprehend, prosecute, and disrupt the gangs that exist in these areas,” he said.
In the meantime, Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Rocky Meade, reminded that the SOE will give the security forces temporary additional powers of search, arrest and detention and limited suspension of individual rights.
“We believe that this is necessary in order to give the security forces the necessary space to carry out the operational tasks that will be required to help bring a sense of normalcy to the communities affected,” he said.
He assured citizens that both the JDF and JCF have been properly trained and oriented to give due regard to basic human rights and citizen rights of all the persons within the communities.
Member of Parliament for St Andrew South Eastern, Julian Robinson, in responding to the announcement, said that the state of emergency declared in East Kingston is motivated by a need to detain people.
Robinson said he was not surprised that a state of emergency had been declared in his constituency, noting that it is the only tool the government seems able to use to combat serious levels of crime.
“In Mountain View, yes we certainly had issues, but I will tell you in the last two weeks since there was the deployment of the security forces, there hasn't been a shot fired,” he said.
“Now, what the state of emergency does it allows the security forces to detain people and I suspect that is the main motivating factor for this.”
He told members of the NEC that the opposition will have to ensure that the rights of people are respected by the state.
Robinson maintained that a series of states of emergency is not the solution to the country's problems with crime and violence. However, he said he would wait to observe the impact it will have on his constituency.
“I don't believe it is the only tool that can be used to control crime, there are other tools. Now we do know that the public equates states of emergency to boots on the ground, so for the majority of the public, they view it in a positive way, because it means police and soldiers will be in their communities,” he said.
The western boundary of the SOE extends in a northerly direction from the intersection of Michael Manley Boulevard and South Camp Road, then continues north easterly along Vineyard Road to the end of Diana Drive.
The northern boundary extends in an easterly direction from Diana Drive to Lexington Avenue, then onto Deanery Road to the intersection of Mountain View Avenue. The boundary then extends easterly to the shared parish border of St. Andrew and St. Thomas.
Further, the eastern boundary extends in a southerly direction along the shared parish boundary of St. Andrew and St. Thomas to the coastline.
The southern boundary extends westerly along the coastline of St. Andrew, then along the Kingston coastline to the intersection of South Camp Road and Michael Manley Boulevard.
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