The State of Public Emergency (SOPE) in St James will be moving into another phase of targeting those who facilitate criminality in the parish. “If we’re going to really bring this crime problem to heel, then we must deal with the hierarchy of criminality,” said Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Delivering the keynote address at last Saturday’s, January 27, 2018 annual awards banquet of the Lay Magistrates’ Association – St James Chapter, at the Hilton Hotel, he would not say how long the action would last, but assured that “we have plans to use all the powers we have for as long as it is necessary to bring this problem to heel.”
He said the first phase was concentrating on dealing with street level crimes that people face on a daily basis. But, he noted, the street level criminal was just the symptom of a deeper problem.
Prime Minister Holness declared, “There is literally an echo system of criminality that is growing in St James; it’s driven by lottery scamming and other such economic crimes. It is facilitated by formal systems: our formal banking system, our formal telecommunications system, our formal transportation system, our medical system.” Consequently, he said the second phase of the SOPE would see “a trending to deal with the people who facilitate the street level crime.”
Referring to an AK-47 which was found on Saturday, wrapped in plastic and buried, Mr Holness stressed that it was not made in Jamaica and “it is highly likely that it came in through our ports, which means that either an officer of the government was neglectful in detecting or turned a blind eye or actively facilitated its way through our ports.”
He referred to an illegal gasoline operation going on for years in close proximity to law enforcement at the Freeport Police Station “that everybody know about but did nothing about it,” noting, “and there are many other activities like that that we are ambivalent about, that we accept.” The prime minister said his message therefore, “is that we cannot only seek to focus on the street level criminal, that isn’t going to solve the problem; if we’re going to deal with criminality, we must deal with it at all levels.”
He was satisfied that the SOPE was achieving success so far and that Jamaicans operating under the system imposed two weeks ago on the parish of St James, have been expressing thanks to him for putting it into reality as they now feel safer.
With that assurance, Prime Minister Holness from has urged St James Lay Magistrates and their guests “to pass this message along to the members of the Diaspora; your family members who are calling in a panic, to say that the Jamaican government, for the first time, has taken a deliberate, instrumental, well-thought-out action to arrest this crime problem that we have been experiencing for decades. To really place the safety of the public above all else.”
Prior to attending the banquet, the prime minister toured some communities where, he said, “the people said, thank you, I feel safer.”
He also said reports on how the police and soldiers were treating the people were that they were very pleasant, very cordial and very respectful. “Many Jamaicans are taken aback, they’re not expecting that level of courtesy, that level of respect, that dignified response coming from our security forces,” he said.