Thursday 27 February, 2020

Senate votes to extend state of emergency in St James

The Senate on Friday voted to extend the state of emergency in St James for another three months until November 1. All 15 senators present voted yes while six were absent.

The Senate vote followed a similar extension approved by the House of Representatives last week Tuesday.

Senator Pearnel Charles Jr, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, in moving the resolution for the extension, highlighted that much was accomplished but stressed that more needs to be done.

Pointing to statistics, the junior minister noted that up to July 21, some 55 people were murdered in St James. This is a reduction of 113 when compared with the similar period in  2017 when 168 people were killed in the parish. At the same time, there has been a 56.6 per cent reduction in shootings, while up to July 15 there was a 32.4 per cent reduction in robberies and a 38.1 per cent reduction in reported cases of rape in the parish.

Charles Jr also pointed out that, up to June 30, of the 2,729 people detained in St James since the imposition of the state of emergency on January 18, some 175 were charged for various crimes. Of that number, 25 were charged with murder, 27 for shooting with intent, 13 with robbery, 10 for rape, 28 for other sexual offences and 72 for “other charges”. Twenty persons have either been detained or charged for being gang leaders or members of criminal gangs while 46 illegal firearms were seized.

“This substantial progress in the fight against crime Mr President was achieved to a large extent by the enhanced security measures implemented in St James…measures which were, and continue to be necessary and critical if we are to succeed together as a nation in taking a stand against criminals and criminal activity,” said Charles Jr.

However, Opposition Senator Lambert Brown, in his contribution to the debate, warned against complacency when the crime statistics, in particular those relating to murder are presented. Brown pointed out that up to July 21, some 728 murders had been committed islandwide, an  average of 3.6 per day “which takes us on a track of over 1,300 murders at the end of this year,” he said.

“I urge the Government, as you embrace the public relations, don’t lead this country into a sense of complacency. We recognise that crime is so rampant it has become common place, we have become numb to it…we have a far way to go,” said Brown.

In the meantime, while 1,616 is the figure that has been widely reported as being the murder total for 2017, Senator Brown pointed to a Planning Institute of Jamaica publication that lists the total as 1,644. It is the third bloodiest year on record.

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