No permits for Christmas! - Police to restrict party events in high-crime areas for holiday season
Lottery scammers and other organised criminals looking to launder money through street dances and other public entertainment events can expect more roadblocks this Christmas season, as the police promise stricter scrutiny in the granting of party permits.
In fact, according to the police, permits will be denied for areas that have a high crime rate and that are a potential security risk.
Since January, more than 920 people have been murdered across the island. The majority of killings occurred in the St James, Clarendon, Westmoreland and Kingston West police divisions, where a deadly mixture of gang conflicts and community silence render policing hellish.
Against this background, some divisional commanders say they will be applying more stringent checks on the promoters, their funding, and their events, prior to granting permission for dances, parties and entertainment events. Where there are security concerns, permits will be denied.
"We will look at the promoters, especially at this time. We are not going to allow people to use these events as a means of legitimising their ill-gotten gains as a matter of money laundering," warned Senior Superintendent Marlon Nesbeth, head of the St James Division, which has been plagued by deadly lottery scammers, who have racked up more than 200 murders since January.
Heavy contingents of police and soldiers were summoned to St James in September after gunmen killed more than 15 people almost tit for tat in one week. The incidents sparked public outcry for a state of emergency in the western parish, and for more draconian measures against the culprits.
The police say lottery scammers and other money launderers splurge huge sums on expensive sound systems, liquor, cars,and also burn United States notes as part of their party experience. Some even spend huge sums on witchcraft, drinking blood from skulls for protection against their nemeses. During the festive season, the revelry and huge expenditure increase significantly.
"If there is a murder, we must know the motive, the profile of the victims, and there are a whole lot of other factors. If it is a situation of gang warfare, we could expect reprisals and other such acts. All those things will have to be considered," continued Nesbeth, whose jurisdiction encircles the hotbed Glendevon, Salt Spring, Norwood and Flanker communities.
"We have been looking at some places that have not, in the weeks going up to Christmas, been overly affected or overly infested with crime. So it's pretty much up to some members of the community and how they work with the police," Nesbeth continued, acknowledging that he recognised people's rights to festivities during the holiday season, hence he was open for discussion with promoters.
Promoters in Raymond's district in Hayes, Clarendon, where 53-year-old Gershan Dixon and Natasha Lewish were shot dead as they stood on a roadside; and nearby Frankfield, where a 37-year-old farmer was gunned down inside his home, both on Monday, will have it particularly difficult as well, as these communities are part of what head of the division, Superintendent Vendolyn Cameron-Powell, described as extended crime scenes.
"We don't allow our citizens to have dances and parties where we record serious crimes and violence. I always tell my citizens, anywhere that we have to draw the yellow tape it is my crime scene, and I don't allow citizens to dance and party on my crime scene; it's my investigation zone," Cameron-Powell told The Sunday Gleaner.
Clarendon has recorded more than 110 murders between January and September, a steady increase from 99 persons killed in 2015 and 62 in 2014, for the corresponding period.
"We strategise. We give persons permission based on the climate. Communities in Central and South Clarendon are the areas where we have recorded high crimes. We also have some in the northern parts. These are communities that we will be looking very closely at when it comes on to applications to keep events," explained Cameron-Powell.
Meanwhile, Superintendent Howard Chambers, head of the crime management team for the gritty Kingston West Division, which has recorded more than 60 murders since the start of the year - primarily from two gang rivalries involving men from Tivoli Gardens, Denham Town, Matthews and Luke lanes - said the onus was on the residents.
"The permits should not be a problem, provided that the space is calm. If the communities can stay calm for this month then that will be an encouragement to consider permits for December," he stated.
The country was outraged earlier this month when gunmen involved in the two rivalries began turning their guns on children, killing two-year-old Demario Whyte of Luke Lane and 15-year-old Jazzianne Cole of Tulip Lane, among other victims. This will also be a factor, said Chambers.
"Where there is violence, there will be no permits," he stressed. "We will carry out background checks on the promoters, plus they will also be interviewed by our intelligence unit and other portfolio officers."
But even as Chambers expressed his sentiments, residents of Tivoli Gardens and its environs were last week still fearing reprisals, following the killing of several 'killas' in recent months. Among them is 20-year-old Steve Allen, otherwise called 'Frenchie', who was fingered as the main suspect in the killing of a five-year-old girl in Denham Town in September.
10 DAYS BEFORE
Applications for permits are to be made to divisional commanders 10 days before the event. The divisional commanders have absolute authority over the granting of any permit, but persons who are denied can appeal directly to the police commissioner.
Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams said such appeals were usually few.
"Mostly, people don't appeal, but in the odd cases where they do, it comes up to me. Some of them we allow and some we don't, based on the grounds on which the appeals are made," Commissioner Williams said.
"If the event is likely to be very high risk and if there is any belief that the security arrangements cannot be adequately made, then we might want to turn that down," he added, noting that his decisions are usually supportive of that made by the divisional commanders.
However, contrary to the commissioner's indications, a promoter in one St Andrew community sang praises to the heavens after he was allowed by the police to relocate his party to a nearby section of the community, after gunmen injured three persons during a drive-by shooting near the venue.
This was after one policeman repeatedly explained the constabulary protocol not to allow any parties in the immediate locale of a crime scene.
His superior, Superintendent Arthur Brown, was obviously unaware of his officer's actions when contacted last week.
"Any community, if it is not stable [then] no event will be permitted. Additionally, if we are overrun by an influx of applications for events and we are not able to police these events, we will not grant permission," Brown stressed.