Ending SOEs is what gangs want – Holness
In a sweeping indictment of critics of security crackdowns across the island, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has insisted that there will be no let-up on states of public emergency (SOE).
Holness defended the success of SOEs, which have led to declines in murders and shootings in the majority of parishes and police divisions in which they are active.
The Opposition People’s National Party has called for a rethink of the strategy, arguing that plugging holes in some areas have led to crime spurts in others.
In criticising some of the crime-fighting measures of the past, Holness said part of the reasons why they may not have worked is because issues such as political pressure cause them to relent.
“We’re not dealing merely with lone-wolf criminals,” said Holness during his address at Wednesday’s handover ceremony of new housing units in Darliston and Shrewsbury in Westmoreland.
“There are gangs that watch police movements, that have infiltrated the security forces, and that have people in places of power and authority. The criticism that the measures we’ve put in place are not working and that we should abandon them is precisely what these gangs want,” added Holness.
SOEs have been imposed in six of 14 parishes and seven of 19 police divisions. While the high-density presence of the security forces has caused murders to decline by up to 44 per cent in SOE divisions, St James has recorded the equivalent uptick in homicides.
Metro divisions in the Corporate Area and St Catherine have experienced significant increases in murder, with Manchester (50 per cent) and Kingston Central (133 per cent) hit by the biggest surges in bloodshed.
Up to November 30, murders islandwide have risen 1.8 per cent year on year.
But the prime minister has urged Jamaicans to concentrate on the successes under the emergency measure, particularly in the western arc of St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland.
“We’ve had the SOE in the tri-parish area from April 30 to the present, for 215 days, and presently for Westmoreland, out of those 215 days, we’ve seen 42 murders. If you were to compare the 215 days before the implementation of the SOE in the tri-parish area and specifically in Westmoreland, 76 murders occurred,” said Holness.
“We’ve been using the SOE strategically, but what criminals want is for us to have a disagreement over its use. Public support must remain strong,” he added.