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Mona madness - Residents in fear as thieves target upscale St Andrew community

Published:Friday | June 17, 2016 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones
Mounted police on patrol in Mona Heights, St Andrew, last Friday.
Spathodia Avenue in Mona Heights is one area the criminals have targeted in recen months.

Thieves and vagrants have been preying on the middle-class community of Mona Heights in St Andrew, causing residents to be living in fear.

The quiet neighbourhood, which is in proximity to the two major universities, is home to several students, hospital workers, university lecturers, managers and retirees, who are seemingly perceived as easy targets by the criminal elements who frequent the area, stealing cars or anything else of value they can get their hands on.

One young University of the West Indies lecturer told The Sunday Gleaner that three vehicles have been stolen from the small apartment he lives in the past three years, including his Honda Civic which was taken in 2014.

"My wife and I woke up and got ready for work as usual. She went out before me only to return and say the car was missing," said the lecturer, who asked not to be named.

"I thought it was a joke, but when I rushed around to the front I only saw the spot."


Saved by a neighbour


He said just last month thieves made an attempt to steal the car he bought to replace the stolen one, but that theft was foiled by his neighbour who was about to start his morning run.

Dr Shulin Fung was not as fortunate as thieves made off with his Nissan Tiida and his neighbour's 2010 Toyota Axio on May 21.

"I simply came home the morning and saw the gate open and the car was missing," said Fung.

"Six weeks before that they had broken into my other car, which was parked at the gate. They basically ransacked it as nothing was in the car. But when I went to the place to fix the glass I saw around six other people from Mona whose cars were broken into the same night," added Fung.

Carmen Henry*, whose brother's Toyota Axio, which he had purchased five months earlier, was stolen, said her family has been living in fear ever since.

"We just woke up and saw the gate open and there was no car on the porch," said Henry.

"We are reluctant to buy another automobile because we are thinking about insurance and whether or not somebody is going to come and take it again," added Henry.

She said the family has since been forced to call in a security company to explore installing an alarm system on the premises, which will cost $70,000 for installation, with a panic button for an additional $20,000 with monthly bill.

"Mona is not the safe community everybody talks about. Even coming from the university back gate to here, what you will find happen sometimes is that bikemen will ride up and grab your bag. So you are targeted in this community. Because of that, as soon as I hear a bike I am looking for an escape."

Nurse Juliet Buchanan said she, too, has had to invest in additional security measures after men came on to her premises. She has since grilled the house and installed a security system.

"There is genuine fear, as the area seems to be targeted," Buchanan said. "There is the occasional police patrol, but it needs to be more frequent."


Police advice


But inspector in charge of the Matilda's Corner Police Station, Michael Trail, said the residents of Mona have to do more to protect themselves against criminals, especially where car thefts and larceny of items from vehicles are concerned.

"What you find happen most of the times when reports are made that these vehicles have either been stolen or broken into is the circumstances under which the vehicles were left," Trail told The Sunday Gleaner.

"You have a vehicle and it is parked in your driveway. Ensure the gate is locked and not only closed by just putting the little latch across, but put a padlock on the gate or a piece of chain with a lock.

"Equip your vehicles with those devices that can assist, like tracking devices, put on your alarm; even though these thieves have some ways of getting around the alarms, but we stress the tracking devices. You have to protect yourself, especially if you have these kinds of vehicles that they take away all the time. The Tiidas, Mitsubishis and the Toyota Corollas; those are three types that they normally go for."

According to Trail, the police conduct frequent patrols in the community and a number of persons have been arrested for pilfering; as they steal flower pots, garden hoses, and potted plants or just about anything that is thrown down in the yards.

"We have arrested persons, but the other problem is that when you pick up these guys and call the people and say come and give a statement, they don't want to go court, so we can do so much and no more," Trail said.

*Names changed on request.