Friday 18 October, 2019

SOEs effective despite two per cent increase in homicides - Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (file photo)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (file photo)

Despite a two per cent increase in the country’s homicide rate when compared to the similar period in 2018, Prime Minister Andrew Holness is insisting that the states of emergency (SOE) now in place in six parishes across the country, have been effective in reducing crimes, in particular murders.

The prime minister said 948 persons were murdered in Jamaica up to September 11, while there have been 908 reported shootings over the period.

Nonetheless, Holness, pointed to statistics to support his position that the SOEs are working positively, as the House of Representatives on Tuesday debated and passed a resolution that he moved, which will see the latest SOE that was declared for Clarendon and St Catherine on September 5, extended by 30 days until October 19.

The House approved the extension of the emergency measure with the 45 Members of Parliament (MPs) present at the time voting ‘yes’, while 18 members were absent.

“The selection of the area now under the SOE was primarily driven by the rate of murders, gang-related activities and other associated violent activities operating in that space,” Holness told the House.

He said in the first seven days of the imposition of the SOE from September 5, murders and shootings collectively were reduced by 73 per cent..., moving from 15 murders in the prior week, to four murders.

“This is saying nothing new, we understand, and have grown to expect the effectiveness of this tool in the reduction of murders,” the prime minister stated.

He also said 100 persons were arrested and charged with varying offences over the one-week period – 30 in St Catherine and 70 in Clarendon.

However, he said despite the gains made within the first seven days of the SOE, the two parishes remain of significant concern, crime-wise.

A closer look at the statistics shows that between January 1 and September 11, Clarendon recorded 100 murders, the second highest number among all police divisions. St Andrew South has the highest, with 107 murders.

St Catherine South, with 93 murders, had the fourth highest total, and this represented a 45 per cent increase when compared to the equivalent period in 2018.

On the other hand, St Catherine North recorded 67 murders, the sixth highest number for the same period.

“Cumulatively, St Catherine and Clarendon account for 28 per cent of murders in the country since the start of the year,” said Holness.

He noted that St Catherine alone accounted for 166 murders, the second highest murder count among all parishes. St Andrew has been the most murderous parish, with 219 homicides.

Holness urged his fellow lawmakers to support the extension of the SOE, contending that “The combined activities of gangs manifest in extortion activities, inter-gang conflicts, illegal firearms trading - these parishes are featuring far more, (including) in the guns-for-drugs trade.”

In his contribution to the debate, Opposition Spokesman on National Security, Fitz Jackson, told the prime minister that with more than 940 people killed this year, if he has a crime plan, “it’s not working".

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