Chang: Security gains must be maintained
While praising the success of the ongoing state of public emergency (SOE) in St James, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang says that measures must be instituted to maintain the current low crime levels in the parish when the special security measures expire in May.
Chang made the declaration following the installation ceremony for St James' new custos rotulorum, Bishop Conrad Pitkin, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, on Thursday.
"Since the SOE started, we have had less than a third of the murders that were recorded up to this time last year. I think the population is beginning to appreciate what is being done. It is a question of how we are going to sustain it," said Chang.
"We won't anticipate what will happen at the end of the SOE in May, but it is working very well as the place is quieter. So there is satisfaction that the presence of the security forces is a welcome addition to the town," continued Chang. "The challenge is what to do to ensure that what has been achieved is sustainable, especially in terms of public order."
On January 18, Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared a state of emergency in St James for two weeks after a record 335 murders in 2017 and a bloody start to 2018. A resolution was later passed in Parliament to extend the measures until May 2.
DETENTION AND PROCESSING
Since the start of the state of emergency, 780 persons have been detained and processed. Several top-flight gangsters, to include top-tier leaders of the Sparta gang and the Nation Crocs, have been arrested for murder and shootings, among other crimes. Sixty detainees currently remain in custody.
Chang also responded to concerns raised by the Cornwall Bar Association with regard to his ministry not signing detention orders for several persons detained under the state of emergency, indicating that in some instances, the detention order is not required.
"There are two sections of the act (Emergency Powers Regulation of 2018) that you can detain individuals under. One requires the minister's signature, and one doesn't. So it (detention of individuals) can be done legally," said Chang.