‘Eat-a-food’ mentality spurring crime – ACP Budhoo
The 'eat-a-food' mentality that has become an entrenched way of life in St James, is one of the factors Assistant Commissioner Winchroy Budhoo, head of the Area One Police, believes is causing crime to flourish in the parish.
"St James, right now, has more active and violent gangs, and in addition to that, I believe the landscape has changed," stated Budhoo, who was speaking during a recent Gleaner mini forum in Montego Bay, St James.
"It is all about illicit hustling to get rich quick."
Senior Superintendent of Police Steve McGregor, the St James commander, shared Budhoo's sentiments, saying there is a cultural mindset in St James in which people see the get-rich-quick attitude as the only way to survive.
"St James always thrives on something illegal," he said. "There is always an underpinning wind that drives St James. If it is not the partner plan, it is drugs, now lottery scamming, but it is always something there that drives the whole behaviour pattern," McGregor said.
"It is a parish where there is scant regard for law and order; you look at Montego Bay, everybody, under the guise of eating a food, want to do anything they feel like and they resist authority, so it makes it much more difficult for the police to do their job," said McGregor.
Last year, St James registered a staggering 212 murders, a record for the parish, which has the tourism mecca, Montego Bay, as its capital. One hundred and twenty illegal guns, which were either directly or indirectly linked to the lottery scam, were seized by the police.
Because Montego Bay is unlike Kingston, where the communities have unofficial leadership structures (dons), McGregor said it is more difficult to police because persons tend to do their own thing and are not answerable to anyone.
McGregor, who heads perhaps the most difficult of all policing divisions, said unlike his previous postings in Kingston Central and Western, where dons could be approached to support the efforts of the police, it is not the same in St James.
NO ONE IS ANSWERABLE
"In St James, everybody do what they feel like. No one is answerable to anyone. In every community you have different fragments of people who have their own organised gang structure, so it is broad. Plus, St James is much bigger (geographically) than West Kingston," McGregor pointed out.
Because of the proliferation of illegal guns and ammunition to advance the eat-a-food cause, the criminals in St James have manage to extend their sphere of influence to other neighbouring parishes, including Westmoreland, which Budhoo has dubbed 'Little St James'.
Budhoo reasoned that, because Montego Bay is an urban area, it attracts persons from all over the island, including criminals, as well as guns and drugs. In addition, he thinks the penchant for greed and selfishness, and a widespread acceptance of criminality, make St James attractive to criminals.
"Because of the breakdown of our values system, as a people, we have become tolerant of indiscipline, and we have grown accustomed to accepting wrongs as a norm, and believing that your son can be involved in lottery scamming but is doing no wrong," said Budhoo.
"When you find that people in the Church, including some pastors, are also accepting this lottery scamming criminal activity as a norm, it's worrying."