Sharp reduction in murders in St James so far this year: six to date
The parish of St James has recorded six murders since the start of the year, a figure which represents one of the most welcomed and dramatic declines in bloodletting in the parish over recent years.
In 2017, murders spiralled to a record 342 for the year in the parish, which was attributed in part to violent conflicts between players in the then mushrooming lottery scam.
The reduction in murders in the parish is now linked mainly to the increased presence of members of the security forces in the parish over the past two years as part of a state of emergency (SOE) there, and divisional commander, Superintendent Vernon Ellis, has cited strategic and consistent application by the police, along with critical support from the military, for the sharp reduction in murders.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced SOEs for the parishes of Westmoreland, Hanover and St James in April 2019.
A SOE was first declared in St James on January 18, 2018, by the prime minister. That enhanced security measure ended on January 31, 2019.
In 2018, murders in the parish were reduced to 103 from the 342 the year before. However, last year the figure rose to 152.
While the parish recorded a significant decline in murders between January 2018 and January 2019 during the imposition of the initial SOE, it saw a sharp increase between January 2019 and April that year, evidently due to the absence of the enhanced security measure.
Several stakeholders, including Montego Bay Mayor, Homer Davis, called for the return of a state of emergency in the parish in the wake of the sharp increase.
"In my interactions with our citizens, I have observed a feeling of ‘who is next?’, and on that basis, I issue the call this evening for the immediate re-introduction of a state of emergency in St James," Davis said back then. He was speaking at the inaugural Custos' Awards Dinner which was put on by St James Custos, Bishop Conrad Pitkins, at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in St James in late April, 2019.
In an effort to capitalise on the gains being made under the SOE, in October of last year, the St James police launched a new team called the ‘Elite Quick Response Unit’. The unit is a highly trained and equipped bike patrol team which is tasked with the responsibility of being first responders to incidences of crime, and to also carry out traffic management operations.