National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang will today be meeting with law enforcers in May Pen, Clarendon, where a 96-hour curfew has been imposed, starting yesterday evening, in response to the recent spike in shootings in the parish which have left seven people dead over a 48-hour period.
Dr Chang underscored that the security forces will be hunting gangsters responsible for the mayhem unfolding in the parish.
“The objective is to have at least a 96-hour curfew and make every effort, by deployment of the security forces, to apprehend a number of the critical players out there and then allow normalcy to return. So we will be taking strong action in terms of the additional manpower and the operational activities out there. The security forces will seek to track down these murderous characters wherever they are; find them, apprehend them and prosecute them,” Dr Chang told journalists in Montego Bay yesterday.
“I have taken note that we have had seven homicides in Central Clarendon in the last 48 hours and this, of course, was preceded by an earlier four on the border of St Catherine within the last two weeks, which meant we have had a serious upsurge in gang conflict in Clarendon,” the security minister said.
He disclosed that the police believe the upsurge in bloodletting has been triggered by a dispute over a motorcycle.
“I have been informed by the security team that this entire episode of killings has come about because of a dispute over a bike, which reflects the level of literal depravity in the behaviour of some of these elements out there,” Dr Chang said.
“There is a known gang established there — the Bushman gang in Central Clarendon — they have had significant degrading; a number of them have been killed in combat with the security forces, as well as several have been detained and charged, but they still have a significant number of activists out there, supporters who are well armed and are brutal in their approach,” he said.
In light of the curfew, which will shorten the hours for business operators who are already experiencing reduced business time — from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am — because of measures imposed under the Disaster Risk Management Act, the security minister is appealing to the business community to be understanding.
“We have to have the support of the business community and their understanding that, despite the other challenges they are having, the gang war will do more to disrupt their business than we will with our curfew. The curfew will be short and sharp. We intend to lock down and find all those miscreants out there over the next 96 hours and, if necessary, we will do it again, but we are confident we can go into the holiday weekend in better shape,” he said.
Dr Chang said since the flare-up of violence, additional police and soldiers have been deployed to the area but that number will be beefed up.
“The security forces, who have knowledge of what is happening, will be taking additional measures. In fact, we had deployed significant numbers after the first incident in the hills, and while we are aware that gangsters in the central area would have been involved, it therefore dictates that we send significant additional manpower of both police and soldiers in the area,” said Dr Chang.
A pregnant woman was among six people shot in three separate incidents on Leon Avenue and Alexander Avenue in May Pen on Wednesday. Three of the victims succumbed to their injuries.
Hours later, a double murder was committed. It is believed to be in reprisal for the triple killing.