Thu | Dec 3, 2020

Murders climb as shootings skyrocket in St James

Published:Thursday | August 8, 2019 | 12:11 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor

Western Bureau:

While the level of panic over lawlessness in the parish has fallen due to heightened attention from the security forces, the latest police statistics still paint a bloody picture of St James.

Police data reveal that up to August 3, the parish had recorded 79 murders, making it the island’s third deadliest police division, behind St Andrew South (98) and Clarendon (85).

The data also reveal that the island recorded 785 murders in the first seven months of the year, compared with 775 for the corresponding period in 2018.

St James has been under a state of public emergency (SOE) for most of the period under review and has had other crime-fighting initiatives such as a zone of special operations in Mt Salem and Operation Restore Paradise in downtown Montego Bay.

“I really don’t want to set off any panic, but this is quite scary ... . It means people are being slaughtered despite the increased number of police and soldiers we have in the parish,” a businessman, who asked not to be identified, told The Gleaner yesterday.

“If we are having this high number of murders despite the strong security presence, it would have been outright anarchy if they were not here. The criminals and the guns are still out there, and unless they are found and removed, the future appears dicey.”

The 79 murders recorded since the start of the year is 23 more than the 56 recorded over the comparative period last year. It should also be noted that there has been a significant jump in shooting in the period under review as the 87 shootings recorded is 33 more than last year’s 54.

In March, Superintendent Vernon Ellis, commanding officer of the St James Police Division, unveiled a five-prong strategy to quell murders and shootings. He said the primary objective was to see murders fall below 100 for the first time in a calendar year since 2006.

“We have studied the variables involved in policing St James, and we have used that to develop a five-prong strategy, which will be used to tackle the situation, especially in regards of murders, shootings, and robberies,” Ellis said at the time.

However, with the security forces failing to get a firm grip on the situation, residents and business interests have been getting jittery.

While St James is seemingly struggling despite the SOE, the parishes of Hanover and Westmoreland, which were twinned with St James in the latest edition of the SOE, are both seeing significantly reduced figures in both murders and shootings.

Westmoreland, which was the region’s most murderous parish in 2018, has seen homicides drop from 87 to 55 and shootings reduced from 99 to 52.

In Hanover, there has been a 50 per cent decrease in murders, which has dropped to 20. Shootings have fallen from 33 to 15.

adrian.frater@gleanerjm.com