72 murders in 15 days - Holness explains why Chang is still security minister

January 17, 2022
A security police checkpoint at the entrance to Russia, one of the Westmoreland communities that has been declared a zone of special operations.
A security police checkpoint at the entrance to Russia, one of the Westmoreland communities that has been declared a zone of special operations.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness
Prime Minister Andrew Holness
Dr Horace Chang (left) Minister of National Security and Major General Antony Anderson, Commissioner of Police.
Dr Horace Chang (left) Minister of National Security and Major General Antony Anderson, Commissioner of Police.
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A staggering 72 murders have been recorded in Jamaica in the first 15 days of the new year, statistics published by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has revealed.

In addition to the murders, the police statistics show that 35 persons were shot and injured as of Saturday. This, however, is 13 less than the corresponding period last year. Shootings are down 10 per cent, with 44 such incidents recorded up to January 15.

When compared with 2021, murders are 24 per cent above the number recorded during the corresponding period last year.

The parish of St Catherine has recorded 15 deaths across its two police divisions, St James has noted 14 and nine have been committed in Westmoreland.

On the whole though, major crime is down 10 per cent. Incidents of rape have fallen by 72 per cent; break-ins are down 13 per cent, while robbery is up nine per cent.

With the high number of murders, Prime Minister Andrew Holness was yesterday asked to justify the retention of Dr Horace Chang as the country's national security minister.

Holness said that the job of national security minister is "the most difficult portfolio in the country" and requires "a long-term committment to the plans that we have in place".

"The problems are deep-rooted and they require structural, institutional, cultural and resource reform," the prime minister said.

In the meantime, relatives of double murder victims in Westmoreland yesterday said that Prime Minister Holness should have considered their communities for zones of special operations (ZOSO).

Westmoreland has recorded three double murders since the start of the year. Tajay Stewart, 22, and 29-year-old Damar Martin, both unemployed of Frazer Land in Cornwall Mountain, were ambushed and shot multiple times by an armed man in the community about 2 a.m. on New Year's Day.

Dervin Jones and Sheldon Jones were gunned down in Carawina district in Petersfield on January 4.

And last Wednesday, 45-year-old Sophia Brown and 58-year-old Bernie Lewis were killed by armed men in King's district, Whitehouse, Westmoreland.

Prime Minister Holness yesterday declared a ZOSO for southern Savanna-la-Mar in Westmoreland. The security measure, which will be in place for 60 days, includes Russia, Dalling Street and Dexter Street.

Nadine Jones-Abbot, whose brothers, Dervin Jones and Sheldon Jones, were gunned down in Carawina district in Petersfield, told THE STAR that she strongly believes that the prime minister should have declared zone of special operations in all the locations that have been declared in her community.

"I support the zone of special operation announced by the prime minister, but, on the other hand, I strongly believe we should have got one. As a matter of fact, I believe zone of special operations should have been declared in all communities affected by murders since the start of the year," Jones-Abbot said.

Basil Grey, a taxi operator, who is a relative of one of the victims, said that he would prefer to see more ZOSOs in other sections of the parish.

"Mi hear the prime minister talk bout Russia, Dalling Street and Dexter Street, but mi nuh hear him talk bout nuh murder inna dem area yah since the start a di year. The place dem weh gunman a terrorise, dem nuh put no ZOSO," Grey

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