Thu | Nov 26, 2020

Chang: We can’t afford a police state - Security minister says SOEs, ZOSOs still key to reining in crime

Published:Sunday | November 22, 2020 | 8:03 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
From left: National Security Minister Dr. Horace Chang discusses plans for the construction of a new police station in Mount Salem with Superintendent Vernon Ellis, head of the St James Police Division; Police Commissioner Antony Anderson; and Assistant Commissioner of Police Clifford Chambers, during a tour of police stations in St James yesterday.


National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has said that unless Jamaica becomes a police state, it will require strategic security measures such as states of emergency (SOEs) and Zones of Special Operation (ZOSOs) to bring the island’s homicide rate down to an acceptable level.

“If you want to do it without those states of emergency, you will have to build a police state. That would mean giving the police and the army manpower in the region of 100,000 to be everywhere at all times, fully equipped,” said Chang, taking a shot at critics of such security measures.

Stressing that the country cannot afford to provide resources for a police state, Chang said SOEs and ZOSOs remain key tools for crime fighting across the island despite pushback from critics.

The security minister was speaking yesterday as he toured police stations across St James with senior members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

While St James has seen a reduction in homicides since the SOE was lifted on August 17, wwwChang says the Government would not hesitate to reinstitute it should there be a spike in murders.

Chang, who is also the deputy prime minister and member of parliament for St James North Western, revealed that since the SOEs across the island were terminated, St James has seen a 16 per cent reduction in murders when compared to the corresponding period last year.

“This is the only division since the lifting of the states of emergency on August 17 that has seen a reduction in homicides,” said Chang. “While we continue to see improvement, we still need enhanced security measures in St James – not only in St James, we need it elsewhere in the island more rapidly.”

Still too high

He said that the crime figures in the parish were still too high.

“Although we are saying St James is moving in the right direction, we are still too high, and if necessary, we will have to reintroduce special measures,” he insisted.

Within recent years, St James has emerged as the nation’s bloodiest police division, hitting an all-time high of 335 in 2017.

At the start of the year, Superintendent Vernon Ellis, the commanding officer for St James, pledged to keep homicides below 100 for 2020, a feat that has not been achieved since 2006.

While the target has been missed – with the murder tally now at exactly 100 – the parish is on track to recording the fewest homicides in years.