Mission Clarendon Rescue | Clarendon bleeding
With just over 130 persons murdered in the parish last year, Clarendon earned the dubious distinction of recording the third-highest number of murders in the 19 police divisions across the island.
'Police seek husband after wife is murdered in Clarendon', 'Double murder in Clarendon', 'Clarendon man chops brothers to death' and 'Taxi operator killed in Clarendon' were just some of the headlines that told the tale as the crime monster stalked the parish last year.
This year has started just the same, with the headlines out of the parish eerily similar to those of 2016.
Already, 46-year-old Owen 'Chiney Man' Oxford has been added to the murder statistics in a parish which was once known as peaceful and quiet.
Last Thursday, Oxford was fatally shot by a lone assailant beside the premises which houses the May Pen Police Station and the Clarendon Police Divisional Headquarters.
The bloodletting continued last Saturday when armed men kicked in the door to a house in Race Track and opened fire on two brothers, ages five and 16, as they slept.
With traditional measures failing to stop the killings, the police responded by partnering with a few faith-based organisations, including The Errol Rattray Evangelistic Association and the May Pen Ministers' Fraternal, to launch Operation Hope.
At that time, the then head of the Clarendon police, Senior Superintendent Fitz Bailey, said Operation Hope would target unattached youth in the parish, particularly those in the constituencies of Central and South East Clarendon.
"There are some issues that I believe are outside of the scope of policing, and if we are in partnership with the Church and other NGOs, this will go a far way in reducing crime," declared Bailey.
He later argued that Operation Hope, which targeted several hotspots, including Farm, Effortville, Bucknor, Bucks Common, Canaan Heights, Juno Crescent, Free Town and Sandy Bay, was reaping success, with signs that crime was trending down.
"We believe we will continue to reap significant success," said Bailey as he noted that weeks after the programme was launched in June, there were signs that it would have been recorded as the month with the lowest murder tally since the start of 2016.
"I believe everything will result in further crime reduction," added Bailey.
'CAN'T CONTINUE LIKE THIS'
But with murders ending 2016 nine per cent above the previous year, Operation Hope became operation despair for several residents of the central Jamaica parish.
"We cannot continue like this for the new year," said one resident in reaction to last week's killing of Oxford in the parish capital.
"Clarendon needs help and it needs help urgently," added the resident of the parish which Police Commissioner Carl Williams last April described as one of the most dangerous places in the country.
Inspector Owen Brown, subofficer in charge of the Community Safety and Security Branch - Clarendon Division, said crime has an impact on almost every aspect of life in communities across the parish.
"You will find that fear has taken over, and even the churches in some communities are closing their doors at nights, and if they are opened, a lot of members will not venture out," Brown said, adding that parents also fear sending their children out to school.
The impact on business is also severe, stifling growth by preventing new ventures from entering the parish, while those already in existence face closure.
- Stay with The Gleaner, Power 106 and The Gleaner Online for 'Mission Rescue Clarendon' all of this week.
Major crimes in Clarendon Jan 1 to Dec 24, 2016
- Murders - 132 (up nine per cent)
- Shootings - 76 (down 13 per cent)
- Robberies - 73 (down 43 per cent)
- Break-ins - 64 (down 56 per cent)