Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Once-volatile Payne Land enjoying best of times

Published:Thursday | January 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Deputy Superintendent of Police Neville Knight speaks with The Gleaner about the low crime rate in communities such as Greenwich Farm, Tavares Gardens, Majestic Gardens and others.
Kenroy Grant of Tavares Gardens speaks with The Gleaner at the corner of Payne Avenue and Lagos Drive about the low crime rate, the contributing factors and efforts from members of the community which have enabled a period of peace.
Children walk freely and without fear along Payne Avenue in Tavares Gardens, St Andrew, yesterday. - photos by Gladstone Taylor/Photographer
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Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

THIRTY-SIX-year-old Kenroy 'Buckyton' Grant has experienced the worst of times in the tough inner-city communities of Payne Land in South West St Andrew, having suffered gunshot wounding on three separate occasions.

Today, he is basking in the best of times as he shares in a major achievement for several communities in Payne Land - that of no murders in 2014 - an accomplishment he attributes to the residents who want a better future for their children.

Grant is not proud to say he had helped to create the bad times in a string of communities where imaginary lines once literally formed borders for warring factions and severely restricted movement, as violence was unleashed on many who dared to wander into 'prohibited' areas.

"We are part of the bad times; we helped create the bad, so now, we a change it. A three times mi get gunshot enuh. One a mi feet nuh good," he said while speaking with The Gleaner yesterday near Mark's Cook Shop, a popular hang-out spot for residents.

Satisfied with peace

An elated Grant said he was satisfied that peace had prevailed in a number of communities in Payne Land, which once saw rival gangs battling each other. He said in the past, conflict was the order of the day between warring factions from Mongoose Town, Delacree Pen, Payne Avenue, McKoy Lane, Tiger Valley, Espeut and Brown's Land.

"It must be a joy because there was a time when mi could not leave from deh suh to deh suh," he said, pointing to an area on Lagos Drive in Delacree Pen, spanning no more than 20 metres.

"There comes a time now when those borders and boundaries break, so it must be a good thing," he said of the peaceful interaction among residents.

"Any community whey you inna, if nuh values not there, the attitude of the people a go bad - you see once values are there, somebody has something to look up to so we have a better attitude and, therefore, build a better community," he reasoned.

He said the community does not have any specific person to look up to for values but "We have to look to ourselves and any help we can get we grab it with our two hands".

Building social cohesion

The Haile Selassie Development Committee, of which Grant is a vice-president, has been an important vehicle in the drive to build social cohesion among the residents, but also to embark on developmental projects for the benefit of the young people in the community.

The group, which was established in April 2014, is a partnership between the Haile Selassie High School and the community.

"We deh yah over the years and dem sey we mash up the place, so the president (Mr Hutchinson) said we are gonna form an organisation and see how we can build up back the place, and the focus was to build a wall around the school," Grant highlighted.

Last year, the committee organised a stage show and raised $400,000 which is being used to purchase windows to be installed at the school.

Ken, a resident who has lived in Tavares Gardens for more than 40 years, said for the last three years, there has been relative calm in the community, with no murders recorded. He said this was a dramatic shift from what obtained several years ago.

"We are doing it to save the children. We like what a gwaan right now; it's just the children we are doing it for, (because) we want a better life fi dem."

His single request is for the Government or some other entity to establish a training centre for young people who have left school and have no jobs.

Meanwhile, the volatile community of Greenwich Town also recorded no murders last year.

Mark, a resident of 7th Street in Greenwich Town, attributes the peace to social activities that have created increased interaction among the residents.

"The people from the top of the community come down to attend parties and we go up and attend their parties," he said.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Neville Knight, from the Hunts Bay Division, told The Gleaner that the police had organised meetings with various groups in Payne Land.

"We didn't hide anything; we just put everything on the table, and we decided to work with them to bring about changes, so, what we (have) realised for the last two years (is that) we don't have a murder in Payne Land."

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com