The violent conflicts in St Catherine have risen to the scale where the parents of gangsters have been killed in reprisals and counter-reprisals, according to Police Commissioner, Major General Antony Anderson.
In providing an assessment of the crime levels in St Catherine, Anderson said the high level of violent crime being experienced in the parish within the past two months “has risen to a scale and nature that greatly endangers public safety”.
“These violent conflicts have reached the stage where family members, including the parents of gangsters, have been killed in reprisals and counter-reprisals.
“When this happens, it creates the conditions for gangsters to take greater risks to take revenge with little or no consideration for collateral damage, whether injury to persons or damage to property,” he outlined.
According to Anderson, this situation played out on Tuesday in the Spanish Town market district, where two men were shot dead and several persons injured.
He noted that St Catherine had 12 active gang conflicts, which result in murders and shootings at any given time.
“Since the beginning of 2022, in St Catherine, we have arrested 82 persons for illegal possession of firearm or ammunition and seized 59 illegal guns, an increase of 29 per cent compared to last year.
“We have also continued to prosecute gangs and gang members, and are leading several active community engagement programmes across the parish,” Anderson stated.
Still, despite these efforts, he said that as of June 15, the St Catherine North Police Division recorded 70 murders and 51 shootings, representing a 52 per cent and 76 per cent increase, respectively, when compared to a similar period in 2021.
Meanwhile, in the St Catherine South Division, 58 murders were recorded over the period, as was the case last year, said Anderson.
A total of 53 shootings were recorded compared to 43 last year, representing an increase of 23 per cent.
“Six weeks ago, the St Catherine South Division was experiencing a reduction in murders of 48 per cent. The recent conflicts in the St Catherine North Division have extended into the southern section of the parish, to include Portmore and Old Harbour,” informed Anderson.
Police high command said it is against that background why the SOE was requested for the entire parish.
“We have seen the data of the police that this methodology has been very effective in quickly reducing violent crime, and an SOE at this time will allow us the opportunity to optimise the available resources, in particular the support from the JDF (Jamaica Defence Force),” he stated.
While imploring members of the public to be patient as the SOE will create delays, Anderson called on citizens to comply with the instructions of law enforcers at checkpoints, and for those persons living outside St Catherine to report any “strange persons” taking residence in their area.
He also urged citizens to notify the Jamaica Constabulary Force of any breaches of professional conduct by its members.
For her part, Chief of Defence Antonette Wemyss Gorman assured that the JDF will operate under the parameters of their training and resources, to “ensure the protection of the human rights of all Jamaicans”.
“The purposes of these operations is not to inconvenience citizens, but rather, to add a robust element of security for law-abiding citizens, while we work earnestly to rid the community of criminal elements,” she said.
She outlined that the boundaries of the St Catherine SOE are:
North: St Ann and St Mary parish boundaries
East: St Andrew boundary
South: St Catherine coastline
West: Clarendon parish boundary