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St James murder rate was like a civil war, says Colonel Pryce

Published:Monday | March 12, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas/ Gleaner Writer
Colonel Daniel Pryce of the Jamaica Defence Force.


Colonel Daniel Pryce, who is head of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) in western Jamaica, said the rate of murder that made St James the nation's undisputed murder capital last year was so horrific that it could be compared to a civil war.

The army man, who was the keynote speaker at yesterday's prayer breakfast that was staged as part of the activities for

the upcoming Supernatural Encounter Jamaica religious campaign, used statistics to make his point to those who were in attendance at the Wexford Court Hotel in Montego Bay.

"Last year, 335 murders were committed in St James, the highest in our history in any one police division," said Pryce, in highlighting the carnage that had unfolded in the parish. "Additionally, there were 253 shootings, so we could have easily had over 500 murders."

With the ugly statistics clearly not reflective of a society at peace, and coming sharply on the heels of the 268 murders recorded in 2016, Pryce said the situation was like a civil war.

"Last year's murder figure (for St James) was 67 more than in 2016. At this rate, we are almost at a civil-war rate of murders," said Pryce.


State of emergency


However, he noted that since Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared a state of public emergency in St James on January 18, the parish's murder figures have decreased significantly.

"For 2018, we have had 15 murders to date, and since the start of the SOE in St James, we have had seven murders. In 2017, at this time, we were trending 38 murders," disclosed Pryce.

Since the declaration of the state of public emergency, several wanted men, including top-tier members of the Flanker-based Sparta gang and the Canterbury-based Nation Crocs gang, have been arrested and charged for a range of crimes, including murders and shootings. A number of rifles and a substantial amount of ammunition have also been seized.

Last year's murder tally in St James, which was the highest among all the parishes and was a substantial slice of the 1,616 murders committed islandwide, was blamed primarily on the 29 criminal gangs that held sway prior to the declaration of the state of public emergency.