KINGSTON, A slew of murders and rampant crime in parts of the … parish of St Catherine has prompted authorities to declare a State of Public Emergency in a second parish since the start of the year.
On the heels of the State of Public Emergency in St James – which was declared in January and has been extended until May 2 – Prime Minister Andrew Holness on March 18 declared a similar state of affairs in the St Catherine North Police Division, for 14 days in the first instance.
A joint Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF)/Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) team was deployed to the area the following day to undertake enhanced security measures, in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act.
Police have since reported that 94 people had been detained as of March 19, 24 of whom were later released. Of the remainder, 20 were processed and kept overnight, while the remaining 50 were being processed with a view to determine whether they will be further detained or released.
In announcing the State of Public Emergency at a press conference, Prime Minister Holness said the move was necessary as crime and violence, particularly murders, had been escalating in the St Catherine North Police Division. The area has recorded 49 murders since the start of the year, mainly due to gang activity.
He advised that the security forces would have the power to search; detain persons without a warrant; and curtail the operating hours of businesses as well as access to venues.
Additionally, all persons using roads leading into and out of St Catherine North and their vehicles will be subject to search. However, he assured that the security forces’ use of that authority could not be arbitrary or beyond review.