Thu | Jan 23, 2020

Murders slashed in St Andrew South, but still among highest in nation

Published:Saturday | October 5, 2019 | 12:10 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
JDF soldiers setting up post on Washington Boulevard in the vicinity of Cooreville Gardens under the state of emergency in St Andrew South in late September.
JDF soldiers setting up post on Washington Boulevard in the vicinity of Cooreville Gardens under the state of emergency in St Andrew South in late September.

Murders have fallen 58 per cent in the nearly three months since a state of emergency (SOE) was declared in the St Andrew South Police Division, Government Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has revealed.

However, despite the sharp reduction, the St Andrew South Police have recorded 116 murders since the start of the year, which, according to Johnson Smith, equates to a murder rate of 59.7 per 100,000.

“Compare this to the 15.1 [per 100,000] for the region or the global average of 6.1 per 100,000. These are not normal numbers for such a small community, for such a small population,” Johnson Smith said in the Senate yesterday as she made the case for a 90-day extension of the SOE across the division.

The enhanced security measure, which was set to expire today, has been extended to January 4 next year.

Johnson Smith, the leader of government business in the Senate, disclosed that in the 84 days between July 7 when the SOE was imposed and September 28, the St Andrew South Police Division recorded 22 murders.

This, she said, is a 58 per cent fall-off when compared with the 53 killings recorded in the 84 days immediately preceding the declaration of the SOE.

According to Johnson Smith, shootings are also down 47 per cent while the security forces have seized 12 illegal firearms and 120 rounds of ammunition. Eleven persons have also been arrested and charged with various offences.

“I know some people are quick to say, ‘only 12 guns?’, but what I want you to think about is ‘how many murders, one gun’, ‘how many lives, one gun’,” said Johnson Smith, who is also the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade. “Intelligence has reflected that there are feuds involving 75 gangs in this area, operating within the boundaries of this state of emergency. They are of varying sizes, varying levels of organisation, arms and wealth. This is an emergency.”

Opposition Senator Wensworth Skeffery suggested that the Government assess the effectiveness of the SOE and demanded answers to a number of questions related to the enhanced security measures that are now in effect in six parishes as well as the St Andrew South Police Division.

“How many gang members have been convicted? Before we even speak about conviction, how many have been arrested and charged? To say we have 75 gangs – and it seems to be a growing number – what we need to say to the nation is , ‘[As]of this day, we have dismantled five, 10, 15’,” he said.

“If we have unlimited state power under a state of emergency in an area, what are the constraints preventing us from getting more guns? Because you have absolute power under a state of emergency to go and search for these guns that we all admit exists,” Skeffery added.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com