'Treat cop killers as the criminals they are'
AN INFLUENTIAL voice in the volatile St Andrew community of August Town says the brazen daylight slaying of a police constable there yesterday must become the last straw for the heavily armed hoodlums preying on law-abiding citizens.
Venesha Phillips, councillor for the Papine division, says for these criminals the time for social intervention is long past.
"It is crazy that any group would come in and say let us try and give them assistance, financial and otherwise, to steer them into some kind of activity that is productive, because it doesn't work. They take that money, they buy gunshot and they kill people," the tough-talking Phillips asserted yesterday.
"I believe that when we are at this point, you treat them like the criminal elements that they are," she continued.
Killed during operation
The Corporate Communications Unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) confirmed that Constable James Grant, 35, who was attached to the St Andrew Central Police Division, was shot and killed during an operation in the African Gardens area of August Town. He had joined the force in 2001.
Last night, Commissioner of Police Dr Carl Williams issued a statement expressing deep regret and condolence to the family and friends of Grant. He described the murder of the policeman as "a despicable act of cowardice that has plunged the constabulary into mourning yet again".
"It underscores the propensity of criminals to target members of the Constabulary Force as they seek to maintain peace and ensure public safety in communities," said Williams.
Police investigators told The Gleaner that the constable was part of a three-member team that had gone into African Gardens based on intelligence that heavily armed men aligned to one gang were getting ready to launch an attack on a rival gang.
One investigator revealed that instead of running, the gunmen turned their weapons on the police and sprayed their service vehicle with gunfire, killing the constable and injuring another cop.
It is believed that members of the police team managed to return fire and the gunmen reportedly ran, leaving a high-powered rifle.
Phillips says the time has come for the residents and the police to take a zero-tolerance approach to dealing with criminals in the community.
"For too long this community has been on its knees by rogue elements that just refuse to put down the guns," she said.
"The fact is that we have tried almost every single method there is to try and get these young men out of criminal activities. PMI [Peace Management Initiative] has gone in, we've had the church groups gone in and the political directorate has gone in," Phillips lamented.
Pointing out that intervention initiatives should be aimed at young people hanging out on street corners, the PNP councillor said, "Once they start firing guns, they become people who the police must deal with."