With the murder rate exceeding 2018’s figure, just how effective are the SOEs?

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre) declaring a State of Public Emergency in the parishes of Clarendon and St. Catherine on Thursday, September 5, 2019 at a press conference at Jamaica House. Also in attendance are (from left) Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson, National Security Minister Horace Chang, Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte, and Chief of Defence Staff Lieutenant General Rocky Meade. (Photo: Twitter @AndrewHolnessJM)

The year 2019 was marked by more than 1,300 murders taking place in Jamaica, more than the previous year’s figure.

The global murder average is six per 100,000 people. For the Caribbean, it is 16 per 100,000 and Jamaica is 47 per 100,000.

In 2005, Jamaica had 1,674 murders, a murder rate of 58 per 100, 000 people. That year, Jamaica had the highest murder rate in the world.

The Jamaican Government has enforced and rigidly stood by a number of State of Emergencies (SOEs) across various parishes on the island.

A State of Public Emergency was first declared in St James on January 18, 2018, by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and it ended on January 31, 2019.

By April 2019, the SOE was enforced in St James, Hanover and Westmoreland.

In July of that year, it was extended to the South St Andrew police division with PM Holness saying, “The State of Emergency will give the security forces temporary additional powers of search and arrest and attention. We believe that this is necessary in order to give the security forces the necessary space to carry out the operational tasks that will be required to help bring a sense of normality to the communities affected.”

In September 2019, an SOE went into effect in both Clarendon and St Catherine as murders continued to escalate throughout the country.

With the murder figures on the rise in 2019, it doesn’t appear that the SOEs are having an impact or mollifying the monster that is crime ravaging Jamaica.

Speaking with BUZZ on Wednesday (Jan. 8), former National Security Minister and current MP for Central Manchester, Peter Bunting said: “There is no doubt that the SOEs have been a woeful failure. Of the two years they have been in place, Jamaica has recorded its third and fourth highest murder numbers in the last ten years. Under this Government, crime and murder [have] skyrocketed.”

Former Minister of National Security Peter Bunting (Photo: Don Waysome/BUZZ)

Bunting pointed out that between 2011 and 2015, the yearly murder figure for Jamaica was around 1,100. Today, it is in excess of 1,300 murders.

“Today the government is claiming that it is spending 10 times more on national security (capital budget 2014/15 vs 2019/20) and say the SOEs are a success. How can that be with murders for 2019 in excess of 1,300?” Bunting argued.

“There is nothing to indicate in the future things will improve,” he added.

Former Deputy Police Commissioner (DCP) Mark Shields said: “Just imagine what those numbers would be without SOEs!”

Former Deputy Commissioner of Police Mark Shields (Photo: Twitter @marxshields)

“We have to effectively use legislation. The police have to take fingerprints, photographs and DNA as a mandatory practice. This is standard policing methods across the world but not in Jamaica. That has to change,” Shield told BUZZ.

“The reason crime and murder [are] out of control is that Jamaica is not carrying out basic policing methodology, and if we continue to do so we will be on a hiding to nothing. The police stations need digital cameras and evidence should be properly recorded and documented. We also need to bring policing legislation up to date. We have to get the basics right,” the former DCP said.

“As it stands today, the technology to support policing is woefully absent,” he contended.

See gallery, highlighting the upward trajectory of the Government’s spend in the Ministry of National Security compared against those in the ministries of health and education, below:

It has been revealed that many vehicles are able to drive through police-military checkpoints without any sort of inspection or security inquiry, thus nullifying the effectiveness of the SOEs.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) does not employ Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) and they are not used at SOE checkpoints.

The ALPR is a computer-controlled camera device that allows one to read number plates and give details as to the time and location of vehicles. It can be uploaded to a central server.