Tue | May 21, 2019

‘St James can’t go back’ - Chang says SOE could return if murder figures climb

Published:Thursday | January 31, 2019 | 12:27 AM
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang (second left) chats with Assistant Commissioner of Police Norman Heywood (left) and Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson at yesterday’s Passing-out Parade and Awards Ceremony at the National Police College of Jamaica in Twickenham Park, Spanish Town, St Catherine.

If crime begins to spiral out of control in St James after the state of public emergency (SOE) is lifted today, Prime Minister Andrew Holness won’t hesitate to seek Parliament’s approval in reinstating another such measure in the parish. That’s the word from National Security Minister Dr Horace Chan, who is also expressing confidence that the security forces will be able to maintain law and order when the yearlong crime-fighting strategy expires.

Chang was speaking to The Gleaner yesterday following a passing-out parade and awards ceremony for a new batch of 194 constables at the National Police College in St Catherine.

“There is great apprehension about what will happen after the SOE. We will be making necessary deployments and provide the police and army with whatever tools we have available to improve their operations.

“We are confident in the leadership of the team down there, and we will continue to monitor how things proceed. If the situation arises that we have to go back to Parliament, the prime minister will do so. We accept the position taken by the Parliament with the Opposition’s involvement.”

The SOE, which has been in effect since January 2018, has been credited with the reduction of murders in the parish last year, which fell to 102, coming from 341 in 2017.

Several business interests and residents have expressed anxiety over their safety once the SOE ends, but the national security minister told The Gleaner that the security forces have not been wasting time and that they have garnered a proper understanding of the workings of criminal elements in the parish.

“Among the impact of the presence of police in the parish is that during the SOE ... we were able to disrupt a number of gangs by detaining known perpetrators. This gives citizens a level of confidence in talking to soldiers and police. The police have a better knowledge of the field of play and, therefore, are in a better position to disrupt criminal activity.

“We are aware that there were high levels of police and soldiers in St James prior to the SOE, and, therefore, we have to monitor happenings. We cannot allow things to go back to the mayhem that was there before,” Chang said.