Cops target thieves preying on students along North Street
Police in the Kingston Central division say they are clamping down on a band of robbers who have been plaguing students walking along North Street and in its surrounding communities.
According to the lawmen, at least six students have been robbed in recent months.
That number, the police believe, is an under-representation, as most students' robberies go unreported. At least two of the victims were students of St George's College, while three were from Kingston College (KC).
The administration at the nearly Holy Trinity High School also said its students were being targeted, but indicated it could not put a number to the instances.
"I have been urging the parents to come out and make some noise about it, report it to the police, because I feel that if there is a greater voice, then something will be done about it," said Margaret Campbell, principal of St George's College.
"In the last two weeks, I have had two robberies. I think they stole cellular phones in both cases. But two is significant in just two weeks," she argued.
Meanwhile, KC principal, Dave Myrie, counted another three robberies involving students attending KC's North Street campus. Everton Burrell, vice-principal of KC's Melbourne campus, said that from time to time younger KC students making their way home on Elletson and surrounding roads are also targets.
Burrell could not speak to the number, but confirmed that there have been robberies in recent months.
"We have had about two incidents, and one of them, in fact, happened in the early morning while the youngster was actually coming to school," Myrie said, appalled by the brazenness of the criminals.
"The guy just ran out of one of the lanes near St George's and tried to hold on to [the student's] shoulder. He tried to grab his phone and ended up ripping his uniform," continued Myrie. "It is something that we have been working with the police, working with our own school resource officers, to address because it is a very serious issue."
Veronica Davis, vice-principal at the Convent of Mercy (Alpha Academy), told The Gleaner that while no recent reports have been made to the school regarding the robbery of its students, their safety while travelling in the surrounding communities remained a cause for concern for authorities.
"We are in touch with the police and we encourage them (girls) to go home during the peak hours. We know of cases that when they are alone, they can become victims of thieves, so we encourage them to walk in groups," said Davis. "They have this tendency to walk that route on North Street, by KC, to downtown. We discourage them from using that route and encourage them to take the bus."
Deputy Superintendent of Police Earl Jagon, who heads operations at the Kingston Central Police Station, said he has been aware of the robbery syndicate, and that efforts have been made to collar them. At least one person has been arrested in connection with one of the robberies, including of the KC students. That person is before the courts.
"We recently launched an initiative which includes increasing patrols in that area, especially between the hours of one and five in the afternoons. And we have also been targeting places that repair and unlock phones in the area, because that is what the criminals are after, really," he said.
"In a lot of the cases, the students were walking and texting when they were attacked and their phones stolen from them. So we just want to advise the schools and the students that this is the time of year when criminals are very active. We need to be very careful," he said.
Myrie and Campbell share strategies in providing buses to take students home or to central points after sporting events and functions. They also encourage their students to commute during peak hours and to never walk alone.
Myrie is convinced, however, that parents have a part to play where the regulation of their children's cellular phones is concerned.