Upon the advice of the Commissioner of Police and the Chief of Defence Staff, the Governor-General, His Excellency Sir Patrick Allen, has authorized the declaration of States of Public Emergency in the parishes of St. James and Westmoreland. The SOEs, which commenced at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, June 22, 2023, will be effective for an initial period of 15 days.
Over the period 1 January 2023 to 19 June 2023, the St James police division had the highest number of murders across all police divisions with a total of ninety-five (95) murders. Westmoreland recorded the second-highest number of murders across police divisions for the same period with a total of fifty-four (54) murders.
In announcing the SOEs on Thursday (June 22, 2023), Prime Minister Andrew Holness emphasized that the SOEs are declared as a response to a surge in criminal activities in the respective parishes and represent the government’s commitment to safeguarding the lives of innocent citizens.
“We have had some success in reducing murders, however, criminal acts have become more brutal and gruesome. We must dismantle the threat to law and order posed by the prevalence of organized gangs. The Government will continue to use all available tools to protect the lives of our citizens, ” said Prime Minister Holness.
For his part, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr. Horace Chang, reiterated the rule of law, public safety, and national security continue to be threatened by crime and violence. He said, “As a Government, we must respond to this threat and challenge the culture of criminality that exists in some communities within these areas.”
Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson said: “The spike in inter and intra-gang murders in St James and Westmoreland has led to a recommendation for an SOE in both parishes.”
In the meantime, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Chief of Defence Staff, Rear Admiral Antonette Wemyss-Gorman stated: “The JDF supports the recommendation for the declaration of a State of Public Emergency, covering the parishes of St. James, and Westmoreland. We continue to work closely with the JCF to secure the nation.”
The State of Public Emergency empowers the security forces, including the JDF, to carry out targeted operations aimed at disrupting and dismantling criminal gangs and their networks while preventing serious crimes. The government assures the public that the safety and security of all Jamaicans remain its utmost priority.