Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang has welcomed the sharp reduction of murders in St James since the declaration of a state of public emergency in the parish, but is concerned over the limited success reaped in removing the illegal guns from the hands of criminal elements.
“It has been a challenge for us (to recover the guns)… that has been the big challenge because we know that once the state of public emergency or the zone of special operation moves and the presence of the security forces is reduced, if the firearms are still there you are likely to get some flare ups,” bemoaned Dr Chang.
He has, however, pinned his hopes on Government’s efforts to improve the intelligence services within the security forces, as well as the acquisition of sniffer dogs to detect illegal guns that they will reap success in locating the deadly weapons.
“We have, however, used the opportunity to improve our intelligence services. So, we are confident that when the enhanced security measures are over, we can still intercept and maybe identify the equipment they have out there much more effectively and quickly,” the security minister asserted.
“There are some other areas that are technology driven that we are looking at.
The previous minister (of national security) announced the need to acquire some shot spotters which are just technology that when firearms are discharged at a certain distance you can identify where they are, the type of firearm and so forth, which gives you a greater knowledge of what you have out there. And, as we institute these things and we bring in the dogs for search, we are confident we will be able to apprehend the carriers of firearms more easily and, therefore, retain the level of stability we have achieved. But it is going to be a challenge, it will not be an easy task. And we recognise that there is no quick fix.”
Dr Chang also expressed that “there is a growing mood in Montego Bay of a large number of people who want the kind of peace and quiet we have now and, hopefully, we can provide them the kind of atmosphere in which they feel confident to talk to the police”.
He was quick to point out that it is not just the “average, quiet citizens, who just go about their business who welcome and embrace the peaceful environment”, but “even some of the men in the ‘grey areas’ of the communities.
“Bear in mind the whole informal sector also involves a significant amount of economic activities.
So, you find bartenders no longer can operate a round robin, rent-a-car business for the local people go down, parties go down. Birthday parties are a big way of raising money; none of that happens and, even for family members, their mothers and aunts, they cannot go to prayer meetings, so they get a little bit … the family gets almost distressed. A significant number of our citizens feel they need to maintain the atmosphere we currently have and I hope they will be able to identify the miscreants and get the police to apprehend them,” Dr Chang said.
The national security minister was speaking to the Jamaica Observer West, after delivering remarks at the opening ceremony for the three-day 10th Caribbean Regional Intelligence Conference held at the Hilton Rose Hall Hotel in St James on Tuesday.
Since Thursday, January 18, a state of public emergency has been established in the parish of St James, which recorded some 335 murders last year.
The gun has been the weapon of choice in a vast majority of the killings.
Since the imposition of the measure, 13 murders have been recorded in the parish, while the number of illegal guns recovered stands at 22.