Sun | Nov 18, 2018

11,000 detained, 400 charged - Opposition raises concerns with enhanced security measures; Gov’t cites reduction in crime

Published:Saturday | October 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
“I really feel deeply distressed that we over here have little choice because we are trapped in this situation where we cannot protect the people we have sworn to protect ... .” – Donna Scott-Mottley

An opposition senator, citing official documents, has revealed that close to 11,000 persons have been detained by the security forces since the first state of public emergency was imposed in St James in January.

Additionally, according to Donna Scott-Mottley, leader of opposition business in the Senate, statistics released by the security forces this month indicate that just over 400 of those detainees were charged with a criminal offence.

The St James state of emergency was imposed on January 18, and Scott-Mottley says that since then, 3,600 people have been detained in the parish.

"One hundred and thirty have been charged," she said.

"Those over 3,000 people, what has happened to them, and what has happened to their lives? How many people have lost their jobs because of this incarceration? How many people have suffered because of this incarceration? How many families have been split apart?" Scott-Mottley questioned.

Two other states of emergency have been imposed - one in the St Catherine North Police Division, while the other is spread across several Corporate Area communities that fall within the St Andrew South, Kingston Western, and Kingston Central police divisions.

The measures, along with the Government's signature anti-crime initiative, the zones of special operations, have been credited with reducing the country's murder rate by 21 per cent this year.

Scott-Mottley said that under the state of emergency imposed in the Corporate Area on September 23 - less than a month ago - 2,460 persons have been detained.

"Forty-three remain in custody for questioning in relation to major crimes, and four have been charged, one with shooting with intent," she said.

In the St Catherine North Division, the opposition senator said that just over 5,000 persons have been detained since the state of emergency was imposed on March 18, "with only 130 people charged".

 

TRAPPED IN THIS SITUATION

 

Despite the concerns, Scott-Mottley and other senators voted to extend the state of emergency in St James for a fifth time, leaving it in place until January 31 next year. Veteran lawmaker K.D. Knight abstained.

"I really feel deeply distressed that we over here (opposition senators) have little choice because we are trapped in this situation where we cannot protect the people we have sworn to protect ... ," Scott-Mottley explained.

But government Senator Charles Sinclair defended the extension of the state of emergency, pointing to the 66 per cent decrease in murder and 59 per cent decline in shootings since the anti-crime measure was launched.

Leader of Government Business in the Senate Kamina Johnson Smith noted, too, that nearly 70 per cent of the murders reported in St James so far this year have been cleared up. In addition, she said that the overall clear-up rate for all serious crimes in St James is now at 62 per cent, up from 39 per cent for the corresponding period last year.

A case is considered cleared up when an arrest is made.

The extension of the St James state of public emergency was approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com