PHOTOS: SOE imposed in Kgn western and central police divisions
A member of the military at a state of emergency security checkpoint in Western Kingston on Sunday.
A new state of emergency (SOE) has been declared, this time covering the Corporate Area police divisions of Kingston western and Kingston central, which were blanketed with members of the security forces before dawn on Sunday.
The announcement was made Sunday morning by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during a Jamaica House press briefing where he was flanked by National Security Minister, Dr Horace Chang; Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant Colonel Rocky Meade, and Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson.
Holness said the SOE will be in effect for 14 days, after which it will need a two-thirds vote in both houses of Parliament for it to be extended further.
The prime minister said Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, had signed the declaration giving effect to the latest SOE. This means SOEs now cover five parishes entirely, and four police divisions within Kingston and St Andrew.
“This will connect the states of emergency existing in the Kingston east and St Andrew south police divisions, creating an effective security corridor along the waterfront from Bull Bay in the east to Ferry in the west,” Holness said of the latest SOE.
"The space now declared has seen increased criminal activities in the second quarter of this year. These areas, if left unchecked, have shown historically that they can spiral to chaotic ends, even having national disruptive impact,” he stated.
Holness told the virtual media briefing that the gangs operating in the area have changed their modus operandi and are no longer confining themselves to geographical areas within community locations, operations and affiliations.
“This presents the possibility of super gangs emerging through collaboration, and this creates a platform for the insemination of more nefarious and foreign criminal activities,” Holness warned.
And the prime minister, who holds the defence portfolio, said the security forces have also observed an increase in extortion, in particular around the market districts and the south coast highway improvement project, which has started along the Harbour View to Bull Bay corridor.
He had a warning for criminals.
“At the launch of this project I was clear that we will not allow criminals or politically connected persons to extort, hold up or otherwise threaten the work in this area in any way. This is a national project and the Government will deal decisively with anyone who seeks to disrupt or otherwise interfere with the smooth operation of this road development project which has been long anticipated and (will be) extremely beneficial to the people of Jamaica, particularly the people of St Thomas.”
In his remarks, the police commissioner said the declared SOE was necessary because of the high level of violence, especially in the Kingston western and central divisions. He said this was despite an overall decrease in murders and shootings nationally.
Anderson said the level of crime in the divisions was “at a scale and nature that greatly endanger public safety”. He noted that one such gang feud last week saw criminals setting fire to the Ray Ray market in the Kingston western division, “depriving residents in and around the community of their livelihoods”.
Anderson said criminals have also attacked the police “as they sought to save lives by intervening between the rival gangs”.
More disturbing is that murders and shootings in Kingston and St Andrew account for 42 per cent of the national figure, according to the commissioner.
“These criminal acts are characteristic of longstanding and deadly inter and intra-gang conflicts,” he said.
Anderson also noted that there have been recurring hotspots across the Kingston Western Police Division, where some 48 gangs are located. He said 50 per cent of the West Kingston gangs are actively engaged in criminal activities.
The commissioner said Kingston central has 32 gangs actively engaged in violent conflicts.
The commissioner also said that the gangs have established networks across divisions to fortify their activities. To counter them, the police are actively hunting a number of persons who are wanted for murder and other violent crimes in the geographic space.
Anderson said 74 per cent of the murders in the divisions are related to gang activities.