KINGSTON, Jamaica – Another state of emergency (SOE) has been declared in Kingston, Jamaica, as a result of the hike in crimes since the beginning of the year.
The SOE is now in effect for the vicinity of Eastern Kingston. Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the announcement during a press conference at Jamaica House this morning.
He said 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 enterprises. 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.
The Eastern Kingston SOE includes the areas of Michael Manley Boulevard, South Camp Road, and Mountain View Avenue.
States of public emergency are already in place in Clarendon, St Catherine, and St James, Hanover, Westmoreland and St Andrew South police divisions.
Many residents and politicians have criticized Holness for his use of state of emergencies as a national crime plan. The member of parliament for St. Andrew South Eastern, Julian Robinson, said that the new SOE is motivated by a need to detain people.
Speaking at a meeting of the People’s National Party’s (PNP) National Executive Council today, Robinson said: “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.”