State of Emergency declared for central, west Kingston

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (on podium) speaking during Sunday’s press conference as he declared a state of emergency for sections of Kingston. Alongside him are (from left) Lieutenant General Rocky Meade of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF); Major General Antony Anderson of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and Minister of National Security Dr Horcae Chang. (Photo: Twitter @PressSecOPMJA)

A state of public emergency (SOE) has been declared for the Kingston Central and Kingston Western police divisions, Prime Minister Andrew Holness says.

Holness, speaking at a digital press conference on Sunday (June 14), said both police divisions have seen a marked increase in criminal activity over the second quarter of 2020, with deadly inter- and intra-gang disputes.

“The space now declared has seen increased criminal activity 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,” Holness said.

“We are also observing that the gangs are not confining themselves to traditional geographic boundaries within community locations, operations and affiliations. This presents the possibility of supergangs emerging through collaboration and this creates a platform for the insemination of more nefarious and foreign criminal activity,” he added.

The prime minister further noted that Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen has signed the proclamation, which brings the SOE into immediate effect as of Sunday morning, for an initial period of 14 days.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness

More sections of the capital will be put under the broadened security measure, as the SOE would connect to those already in place in the Kingston East and St Andrew South police divisions.

Prime Minister Holness explained that the extended corridor would extend along the Kingston Waterfront from Bull Bay, St Andrew, to Ferry on the border of St Andrew and St Catherine.

According to Holness, law enforcement has seen an uptick in extortion rackets around downtown Kingtson’s market district as well as with ongoing construction works along the first phase of the South Coast Highway Improvement Project, which is expected to better connect Harbour View to Bull Bay.

For his part, Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson said that despite a decrease in murders and shootings nationwide, the sustained levels of violence in West and Central Kingston particularly warrants some intervention.

Gang warfare between rival factions led to the Ray Ray Market being set ablaze late Monday night, June 8.

“The high levels of violence is at a scale and nature that greatly endangers public safety. Violent crimes in Kingston and St Andrew represent 42 per cent of the national figure. The criminal acts are characteristic of long-standing and deadly inter- and intra-gang conflicts,” Anderson disclosed.