KINGSTON, Jamaica – Senators will meet on Friday to debate an extension of the current states of public emergency (SOE) after the House of Representatives Tuesday approved five Emergency Powers Resolutions to extend the SOEs to September 3.
States of public emergency have been imposed in Hanover, St James, Westmoreland, Clarendon, St. Catherine, Kingston East, Kingston Central, Kingston Western, and St. Andrew South and Prime Minister Andrew Holness, told legislators that the country has managed to maintain an overall 13 per cent reduction in serious crimes over the comparative period last year, as at July 18.
“For the same period, all serious crimes recorded reductions. We have a three per cent reduction in murder, 11 per cent reduction in shootings, 16 per cent reduction in rape, 12 per cent reduction in robberies and a 24 per cent reduction in break-ins.”
Holness said that while these enhanced security measures were never meant to be a silver bullet, “we cannot discount their value in saving lives.
“We are still not where we would want to be, as our homicide rate is still higher than that of the global and regional averages, but it is important that we maintain this momentum as we continue to develop the capacity of the security forces,” Holness said, adding that all areas under the SOEs have recorded reductions in murders and shootings.
“For the comparative 173 days prior to the state of public emergency to the present, the Kingston Eastern Police Division experienced an overall reduction in murders and shootings by 55 per cent and 69 per cent [respectively],” Holness said.
He told Parliament that murders in that police division have declined from 44 to 20, year-on-year, and shootings have fallen from 51 to 16 as at July 19. He also noted that eight firearms have been recovered and 87 rounds of ammunition were seized.
In terms of Clarendon and St. Catherine, there has been an overall reduction in murders and shootings.
“We have seen a 22 per cent reduction in murders, moving from 310 to 241, and for shootings a 25 per cent reduction, moving from 285 to 214. And… as at July 19, 54 firearms and 1,537 rounds of ammunition were seized, 1,560 persons were arrested and charged and 15 persons remain in custody,” Holness said, noting that in the St. Andrew South Police Division, there was a four per cent reduction in murders and 12 per cent reduction in shootings.
For the period before the SOE, 163 murders were committed, but that figure dropped to 156 in the period since the SOE. There were 162 shootings in the period before the SOE, and 142 since it came into effect.
Holness said with regards to St. James, Westmoreland and Hanover, there has been a 24 per cent reduction in murders, moving from 374 to 285 and a 25 per cent reduction in shootings, moving from 376 to 281.
“If you were to take St. James alone, St. James is now experiencing the lowest murder rate in 17 years,” Holness said.
However, Opposition Leader, Dr. Peter Phillips, who was critical at the manner in which the government had sought the extension of the SOEs, said there was need for improved dialogue in the execution of the affairs of Parliament.
“The approach that has been offered so far has been wanting,” Phillips said, noting that National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang had said no extension would be sought after July 25.
“There is the case in law as provided for by the electoral commission what is called now the campaign period begins in August 25. I am prepared to vote in favour of an extension to August 25. I am also prepared and I believe if we need be, to return to the period in the period of the recess should it become necessary,” Phillips told parliament.