Editorial: Wretched Spanish Town
How much longer will marauding criminals hold Spanish Town residents in their clutches and businesses to ransom? For two decades, we have witnessed the decay of Spanish Town under the weight of criminal elements that have extorted, killed and maimed with impunity.
This is the historical capital of Jamaica, once a thriving centre of commercial activity, a community full of cultural footnotes that should not bear the scar it now does. Instead of embracing the town's treasures, many people are now scared to visit Spanish Town.
The Friday edition of The Gleaner revealed that these criminals have not confined their activities to the Old Capital, but have extended their tentacles to areas such as Half-Way Tree and Portmore. These criminals are sucking the lifeblood from decent, hard-working people who live in the targeted communities. This raises some important issues that must be addressed in the interest of national security.
It may surprise the general public how much the police know about this matter. The Gleaner informs the public that the police know that there are about 30 persons engaged in extortion of bus and taxi operators in Spanish Town. The police know that the extortion racket is run by Clansman gangsters. The police know that the men rake in about $1.5 million each day. They also know that busmen who use the Spanish Town bus park are ordered to pay $1,100 a day to extortionists.
The police have identified six wealthy, high-profile persons who are funding the extortionists and are probing their activities. With so much knowledge at their fingertips, we wonder how the police are unable to staunch the activities of these extortionists, who were observed moving about in the bus park.
And while the police watch the criminals and take no action, there is no respite for ordinary citizens who are being targeted and victimised by these criminals. Can the citizens feel confident that they are being served and protected by the police? And what about our politicians? Do elected officials feel a sense of responsibility to ensure that their constituencies are well served and protected?
The country has been given a frightening hint of what can result from facilitating criminal enterprise, and especially when it is aligned to political parties. We have seen how extortion rackets thrive, how drug money can fund criminal activities, and how many lives can be destroyed in the process.
We have seen how these criminals can cripple a community and sully a country's good name. We have seen Tivoli Gardens. Criminal careers can only flourish when law enforcement fails to curtail the activities of criminals.
Business interests in Spanish Town say the economic viability of the community is now at stake. They want the situation fixed. We feel the situation demands the immediate intervention of Police Commissioner Carl Williams, who needs to tell the country what remedial actions he intends to introduce to take back Spanish Town from the criminals.
Shutting down criminal enterprise and rebuilding communities is the only way to ensure that these communities survive and become places for people to work and grow their families in peace.