The announcement was made during an emergency press conference at Jamaica House.
The Prime Minister said: “After careful consideration and review of the crime statistics in particular violent crimes which have been committed in some western parishes, the security forces have advised that the situation now currently exists would warrant the Government advising the Governor-General to declare, proclaim a State of Public Emergency”.
The State of Public Emergency will remain in effect for fourteen days after which the Parliament may vote to extend the security measure.
The overall response to the State of Emergency has been positive, with the President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce Winston Lawson welcoming the measure while pleading for restrictions on businesses hours to be reasonable.
The chamber president bemoaned the fact that three months after the previous tywelve month state of emergency expired in St James, crime had again become a major problem.
"The scourge of crime was upon us again, so we welcome the move and we think it is something that will immediately address the haemorrhaging that we saw," he said.
Lawson said that chamber members have been urged to use their resources to help in the fight against crime in St James, including registering of security cameras on the JamaicaEye national security system.
In the meantime, Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar, Councillor Bertel Moore, said the State of Public Emergency (SOE) declared today in Westmoreland was a welcome move for people living in the parish.
“I and the wider community (of Westmoreland) appreciate it and hope it is carried out correctly. I also hope that they confiscate a lot of weapons during the SOE,” the mayor said.
Over in Hanover, President of the Lay Magistrates Association of Hanover Calvin G. Brown welcomed the measure, but said "we would have been more comfortable with a Zone of Special Operation (ZOSO) as with it comes a number of social interventions aimed at developing our communities."
The Lay Magistrates President said "what was lacking in Hanover was sufficient police personnel who were sent over to St. James to support the State of Emergency in that Parish.
In addition, many of police personnel were used in St. James to guard the Barnett Street Police Station which housed all our prisoners, because the police lock-ups in the parish could not house the prisoners. Hence we were not only depleted in man power, our transportation was severely limited," Brown said.
The Lay Magistrates President said "we are hoping that with the State of Emergency, sufficient personnel will be allocated to the parish to ensure a sense of safety among the residents."
Important to the promulgation of a State of Emergency, will be the regulations governing the SOE which will determine how citizens will be treated.
He said there were a number of questions to be answered: Where will be the detention centres? What is the length of time it will take to process detainees; What level of access will their families have? What level of access will their Attorneys have? When the tribunal set up? And when will those detained will be able to see a magistrate?
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