It’s been over twelve hours since residents of St. James have been living under an official State of Public Emergency.

Hundreds of military troops and police moved in overnight, saturating troubled parts of the parish, stopping and searching some residents, and putting the area on lockdown.

Thursday afternoon, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that he’d declared a Public State of Emergency in the parish. The order has been signed by the Governor General and gazetted.

Spurred on by lotto scamming, arms and drug trafficking, and numerous gangs, the parish of St. James has become Jamaica’s murder capital, recording 335 murders last year alone.

That’s almost twice the number of persons killed in the parish with the second highest number of victims last year.

That parish is Clarendon with 168 murders.

At a media briefing at Jamaica House this morning, Prime Minister Andrew Holness says it’s got so bad, St. James is now officially under a State of Emergency.

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Although it’s already in force, the State of Emergency will be tabled at the next sitting of Parliament.

The Governor General’s proclamation, which was gazetted today, says it will remain in force for at least fourteen days or up to three months.

But the Prime Minister says that for security reasons, he’ll not be revealing exactly how long it will last, nor how many troops and police have been deployed to the parish.

Chief of Defense Staff of the Jamaica Defense Force, JDF, Major General Rocky Meade, says residents can expect to be stopped and searched at random.

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And, although the JDF boss says the security forces will “ask”, that’s really just a courtesy.

Major General Meade says you can’t actually refuse the request. The law gives the security forces the power to search. However, Prime Minister Andrew Holness says people will be treated with dignity.

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A hotline manned by the JDF has been established, which residents of St. James can use to report abuses, as well as give information about criminals and guns. That number is 830-8888.

And, Prime Minister Holness says the State of Emergency was carefully planned for some time. He says the government felt now was the right time to move ahead.

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He says they’ve also learned from mistakes in the past. And that all the variables are aligned to make this a successful operation.

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Meanwhile, Mr. Holness says stakeholders in the tourism industry are also on board with the plan.

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