Mark Wignall | When guns bark after midnight
At one far end of Molynes Road, two Saturdays ago, at about 11:45 p.m., 38-year-old Shays drew in the heavy door, locked the grille, and walked the 50 metres to the gas station where she hoped to grab a cab to make her way home. She had been operating her bar for about eight years, and it was her sole source of income for herself and her two young children.
In less than 15 minutes, it would be Mother's Day, and, apart from feeling slightly weary on her feet, she simply wanted to reach home and lie beside her five-year-old daughter.
Another bar close to hers was also on the verge of closing its doors. Only one car was there, driven by someone she knew, "a nice guy 'bout in him late 30s". As the guy exited the bar and was making small talk with the owner, a car drove up and two young men stepped out. One kept looking all around him.
A hanger-on outside, wise to the ways of the street and bolstered by white rum, picked up the move and said out loud, "Dis nuh look right," and strode away in the direction of the gas station. As he moved away, he saw the gun and instinctively broke into a sprint.
At the gas station, Shays spun as she heard the shots. The two gunmen from the car were opening up on the guy leaving the bar. Bullet after bullet.
"He picked up about twenty and is in hospital."
"Twenty!" I said, in obvious surprise.
"He is kind of fat, big-bodied. All you, you would be dead. I think that is what saved him."
About 70 metres from the bars, a gang of armed hoodlums used the gully course to go on a robbery spree at three in the morning. Less than two weeks ago. I had previously written about it.
It is my understanding that the man shot had a licensed firearm that was stashed in his car while he was being mercilessly taken down. That he was not robbed or the car looted may tell a story, but what Shays told me is of more currency.
"Most days, the best time for business is between seven and midnight. Now how am I going to keep mi bar open after eight? Mark, as 8, 8:30 come, is lock me gwine lock and go to mi yard. Dem gunman outa control."
How many bars have been forced to give up on their night lives at just the time when the income is at its highest? "Dats why mi did want Adams fi get the commissioner job. Sweet talk can't work wid dem guy. No one in the area know weh dem come from, but a dem control di streets after midnight.
"Mi nuh know nutten 'bout dis commissioner, but no amount a appeal can work wid these gunmen. Dem acting as if is dem in control."
Talk Peace, Act Deadly?
Successive police commissioners have rightly made it a point of their stock in trade while giving addresses to make comments on the increasing 'brightness' of the JCF. The most previous commissioner even possessed a PhD.
But let us face one fact staring back at the faces of the collective nation: The mother who comes from Bush Mountain and the father who lives on Zinc Fence Lane have much in common aspirationally with householders occupying Uppington Heights.
They all want their bright, young children NOT to become members of the JCF. So the reality still exists that the vast majority of the JCF are those from Bush Mountain and Zinc Fence Lane who have a far way to go before they can sit on a backyard gazebo in Uppington Heights.
"We do not take our cues on dealing with the streets from the calming words of the new commissioner," said a superintendent of police to me last Thursday. "We understand him, his role, and we are certain he understands our role on the streets to protect our lives first and then the lives of defenceless citizens. That is the bottom-line reality."
Many times, I am forced to ask myself: Do you believe that there are heartless gunmen in the society who are beyond any form of redemption? Many times I do not like the answer that I give myself.
Constable Hillette Virgo from the troubled Montego Hills area was just one step away from being named LASCO Top Cop of the Year for 2017. In her diary of a cop, posted on Facebook, she explains.
Policing As A 'Step Down'?
I have spoken at length with Constable Virgo and personally consider her to be a rarity. She states in the diary: "A very close family member of mine allegedly registered his opinion of me being a member of the JCF a few years ago ... . 'She didn't have to go to university to do that ... .' I can imagine the tone of scorn that clothed that statement.
"No one needed to tell me that scores of people regarded my choice with disdain. In fact, I will never forget the day I saw my community college lecturer who had influenced me to pursue a bachelor's in sociology.
"I saw her at a church I was visiting and hurriedly went and sat beside her. After hugging and expressing our mutual delight at seeing each other, she asked, 'So what are you doing now?'... I smiled and proudly said, 'I am a cop.'
"'Her smile disappeared instantly and she looked away. There was no mistaking how she regarded my profession ... . After the longest, most embarrassing 30 seconds, she said to me, 'Not that I think anything is wrong with the job, I just don't see it for you. As a matter of fact,' she went on, 'I see you entering from up here (demonstrating with her hand), and not down there.'
"'I wanted so badly for the earth to open up and take me in. Needless to say, I heard nothing the preacher said that day. I was plagued for days that I had disappointed so many with my choice. However, I know they were limited and shallow in their thinking."
Leave Social Media Alone
One would like to believe that Information Minister Ruel Reid was having a slow news day when, just recently, he said of the Internet and social media, "There is a clear need to find a new balance between privacy rights and legitimate security concerns.
"... The Government itself must move beyond its traditional focus on increasingly narrow and static infrastructure issues and address the consumption and influence of content."
Hmm, the consumption and influence of content? Really?
It has been the experience of ardent students of history that when governments fail miserably to advance their nations' social and economic performance and bring real development to the people, at just about the moment when an autocratic twist is being considered, the morality police move in.
Certainly, I do not believe the JLP administration is anywhere near there. Social media like Facebook and Twitter has given every person on the planet the opportunity to a voice as they never had before.
The fact is, there are many sane and reasonable voices on these platforms, and, like in everything else, there are many people in deep mentally distorted places. A lot of lonely people find 'friends' on Facebook and then actually believe that these strangers are really their friends.
Social media encourages fake news and real people who are fakes, so it has to be taken with more than a grain of salt. Many times I have seen well-known politicians mercilessly accused of 'high crimes' on social media.
My advice to the politicians?
This is an imperfect world. You have spent a significant part of your lives distorting the truth. For now, until a better way is found, live with distorted people making you out to be a fake.