Party poopers - MP chastises cops for shutting down wakes, entertainment events
Declaring that the leadership of the Old Harbour police subdivision was only effective at shutting down “birthday parties and set-ups”, controversial St Catherine South West Member of Parliament (MP) Everald Warmington yesterday criticised the operational effectiveness of his Government’s security crackdown that has echoed the concerns of entertainment promoters.
States of emergency and zones of special operations have been imposed in almost half the country’s police divisions, but their utility continues to be hotly debated, as murders shot up more than three per cent in 2019 over the prior year. Killings have risen eight per cent this year.
Just last night, five persons were shot in Ackee Walk, St Andrew. At least three were reportedly killed.
Warmington told his parliamentary colleagues yesterday that he withstood law enforcers recently after they came to lock down a nine-night in the area.
“The only thing that the police in Old Harbour do effectively is to shut down birthday parties and set-up.
“I have been to two set-up recently and the police arrive at 10:15 p.m. to lock down the set-up, and I made it clear that the set-up naw lock down, dem have to lock me up first,” Warmington charged, during his contribution to a debate on motions to extend the Kingston East state of emergency (SOE) and the zones of special operations in Denham Town, Kingston, and Mount Salem, St James.
According to Warmington, the police need to pursue criminals and gangsters and “leave the parties and set-up alone”.
Popular event promoter and artiste manager Romeich Major, of Romeich Entertainment, told The Gleaner yesterday that parties and nine-nights were no more the drivers of crime than other commercial activity.
Noting that promoters required police endorsement to host parties, Romeich argued that if security conditions were tenuous, organisers would be willing to hire law enforcers or private guards.
He cautioned that a shutdown of these events could deprive ordinary Jamaicans of their livelihoods, noting that the absence of economic activity in low-income communities might fuel antisocial behaviour and organised crime.
“When you a talk about from a party to a dance, you talk about the jerk man and the little man who is selling his nuts, so cutting out the entertainment is only going to leave more people hungry and make the country worse,” he said, emphasising the knock-on effect.
Opposition lawmakers cheered Warmington at the start of his contribution to the debate after he poured cold water on checkpoints manned by the police and army as part of efforts to catch criminals in SOE zones.
He said that states of emergency should be driven by intelligence with the targeted use of cordons and curfews.
“I believe we need to go back to the days when we have curfews and shut down areas from 6 a.m. to 6 pm., for an entire week. Go inside there and search the area and you will find the guns, so by having roadblocks and checkpoints to me it is not effective because the criminals know where the checkpoints are,” he said.
Warmington suggested that the leadership of the Old Harbour police had lost the support of rank-and-file members of the force.
Warmington used police data to indicate that major crimes in the area had spiked. He said that in 2018, there were 25 murders in Old Harbour and its environs. This increased to 35 last year.
He said that the 26 shootings in 2018 jumped to 33 in 2019. Robberies also increased from 21 in 2018 to 24 last year.
However, Opposition MP Dayton Campbell rebuked Warmington for interfering with the police as they carried out their duties.
Campbell noted that while Warmington made some relevant points during his contribution, the St Catherine South West MP was setting a dangerous precedent.
“I do not believe that that is something that the House should countenance and I believe that it runs the risk of interfering in that arm of the Government.”
The motions were passed without dissent.