JAMAICA-POLITICS-Opposition calls on government to revisit plan to deal with crime.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Holness announced the extension of the current states of public emergency (SOEs) to the Eastern Kingston Police Division (EKPD).
'One thing the country will know is that this prime minister and this administration will stick to the plan, because any deviation at this point in time will, except for improving the plan - and we are always open to suggestions - but to go and abandon our strategy would only set us back another 10 or 20 years,' Holness said.
The new SOE will spread across several urban and rural constituencies and communities in the Corporate Area including the capital.
But PNP and Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips, said the government needs to review its current policy.
'The government needs to take off the blinders and see that what they are doing is not working to the satisfaction of the people,' he said., adding 'they don't have a particular plan, and because we are mindful of the very terrible plight and anxieties of the people about their security, we have not opposed the granting of the state of emergency, but we are still trying for the government to find the better path'.
Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson told reporters that the new area for the SOE was chosen because it has persistently remained one of the country's crime hot spots.
'There are currently 32 criminal gangs and over 16 now actively engaged in various violent conflicts in the division, especially shootings, when compared to 2018. There are 33 wanted persons and another 34 violence influencers within the division,' he added.
Anderson said that during 2019, Kingston eastern recorded an increase in violent crimes, especially shooting when compared to 2018.
According to the police murders increased by 16 per cent, while shootings increased by 49 per cent - two-thirds of which was attributed to gang activity in 2019. The authorities said they had recovered 36 firearms and 622 rounds of ammunition in the east Kingston area and since the start of 2020, there had been 11 murders in 25 days, compared to only three over the corresponding period last year.
Phillips said a PNP administration would, among other measures, place more emphasis on long-term social intervention in the areas that are producing violence, and also 'to do things like hot spot policing, not just in the areas where states of the emergency exists'.
He told reporters that police posts would be established wherever there was 'potential violent criminal activity', while greater emphasis would be placed on intelligence.
Chief of Defence Staff at the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Lt General Rocky Meade, said the introduction of the SOE will give the security forces temporary additional powers, including searches, rescues and a limited suspension of certain civil rights.
'We believe that this is necessary in order to give the security forces the necessary space to carry on operational tasks that will be required to help bring a sense of normality to the affected communities,' he said, urging drivers approaching the checkpoints to lower their windows and turn on their lights during dark periods.
'As they comply, there is no need to slow down beyond what is reasonable to observe the activities at the checkpoints,' he said.
National Security Minister Dr. Horace Chang backed the idea to implement the SOE in the area, pointing out that a teacher was killed at Vauxhall High School on Windward Road over the weekend.
'And we assure the security forces of our continued support in carrying out their duties,' Chang said.