Prime Minister Andrew Holness has declared a state of public emergency (SOE) in the East Kingston police division, which has taken effect as of midnight Sunday, January 26.
The advanced security measure comes as East Kingston has been rocked by a series of gang-related flare-ups over the course of 2019 and at the start of 2020, Holness explained at a press conference at Jamaica House.
Hours before PM Holness made the declaration, members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) has already increased their presence in the trouble area, setting up checkpoints and deploying a large contingent on the ground.
The boundaries are as follows:
WEST – north at the intersection of Michael Manley Boulevard and South Camp Road – northeast along Vineyard Road towards Diana Drive.
NORTH – east from Diana Drive to Lexington Avenue, onto Deanery Road to the intersection of Mountain View Avenue extending east along the boundary of St. Andrew and St. Thomas
EAST: south along shared parish boundary of St Andrew and St Thomas towards the coastline.
SOUTH: west along the coastline of St Andrew, along the Kingston coastline towards the intersection of South Camp Road and Michael Manley Boulevard.
The SOE now gives the security forces temporary, additional powers to search, arrest, detain and limited suspension of individual rights.
Breaking down the rationale behind the declaration, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson said that for far too long, East Kingston has been reeling and the security forces will crave the public’s understanding as they tackle criminal elements with the division.
“The high level of violent crime being experience in the Kingston Eastern division in the latter part of last year and since the start of this year is at a scale and of a nature that greatly endangers public safety,” the Police Commissioner explained.
“Eastern Kingston has consistently been one of the island’s crime hotspots with several gangs engaged in deadly inter- and intra-conflicts or other criminal enterprise,” he added.
Major General Anderson reported that the division has 32 criminal gangs under the JCF’s radar – half of which are involved in varying degrees of violent conflict. East Kingston has 33 wanted persons being sought and another 33 ‘violence influencers’ at large in the division.
“The gang warfare has created fear among citizens and has caused the disruption of livelihoods of several communities in the division. We must continue to save the lives of our citizens and reduce the fear communities feel when violence goes unchecked.
“We seek the support and cooperation of the residents, persons doing business in or transiting the declared area – and indeed, all Jamaicans. There may be some traffic delays and inconvenience, but we ask for your patience and understanding,” Anderson argued.