Thu | Oct 17, 2019

St Catherine, Clarendon account for nearly one in every three murders

Published:Friday | September 20, 2019 | 12:10 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

St Catherine and Clarendon account for nearly one-third of the more than 900 persons murdered across the island this year, Leader of Government Business in the Senate Kamina Johnson Smith has revealed.

Jamaica has recorded just more than 950 murders since the start of the year, and according to Johnson Smith, 257 of those killings occurred in St Catherine and Clarendon.

She made the disclosure yesterday as the Senate, in a rare Thursday sitting, voted to extend the state of emergency (SOE) by 30 days in both parishes.

The enhanced security measure was imposed on September 5 and was set to expire yesterday after the initial 14-day period for which it had been declared.

Johnson Smith disclosed that since the start of the year, St Catherine, which has two police divisions, recorded 157 murders. The St Catherine South Police has reported 91 killings so far this year, 45 per cent higher than the similar period last year, while the St Catherine North Police has recorded 66 homicides, down 14 per cent.

In Clarendon, Johnson Smith said, 100 persons have been killed since January 1, making it the police division with the second-highest number of murders.

“Fourteen days is quite simply not enough time to take a hold of the criminality that has become entrenched in certain areas,” Johnson Smith said as she sought to convince opposition senators to back the extension.

Seeking to address a major sticking point for the Opposition, whose members have demanded details about the operations, Johnson Smith, the leader of government business in the Senate, said that up to last Sunday, 135 persons had been arrested and charged with various offences.

Thirty-five persons were arrested in St Catherine and 100 in Clarendon, she said.

“Further details of detentions, etc, undoubtedly, will be shared in the dialogue that has been agreed to,” Johnson Smith said, making reference to the planned talks between the Government and the Opposition on crime and other pressing issues.

But after listening to Johnson Smith’s presentation, opposition Senator Lambert Brown made it clear that this was the “last deggeh-deggeh time” he would vote for an extension of the SOE while his colleague Floyd Morris revealed that he had to resist the temptation to yawn.

“My natural body response was triggering a yawn, but out of respect for the leader of government business, I held back. I listened to the presentation … in which she tried to convince herself that the state of emergency is working,” said Morris, who is blind.

“But when I looked at her facial expression, I know that she was unconvinced. Equally, the body language of the supporting cast was unconvincing,” he added, triggering an outburst of laughter.

However, seeking to drive home his assertion that the security measure was not working, Brown pointed to a string of police statistics, which he said were “going in the wrong direction”.

As an example, he said the police statistics show that so far this year, arrests are down by more than 600, arrests for illegal guns are down by 223, while the use of guns in murders and robberies has gone up.

He said that the statistics reveal that 783 murders were committed by guns this year, 50 more than for the corresponding period last year, while guns were used in 580 robberies this year, up from 515 last year.

“The guns have not been removed under this state of emergency,” Brown lamented.

The Government has also implemented longer opening hours for businesses, churches, and other public facilities in both parishes. Under the new business hours, all public facilities will have to close their doors by 11 p.m. but will be allowed to open as early as 6 a.m.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com