Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Mission: Clarendon Rescue | It’s a ‘Rocky road’ - Gangsters make life miserable for residents of once-peaceful fishing village

Published:Sunday | January 15, 2017 | 1:35 AMCorey Robinson
A sign inviting persons to enter a restaurant in Rocky Point, Clarendon.

Residents of Rocky Point, an informal fishing village on the Clarendon seaside, are begging to be rescued as gangsters continue to hold them hostage in their communities.

It is not clear what started the rivalry, which residents claimed has been ongoing for the past three years, but last Thursday the fear that has gripped the community was evident in the resident’s shell-shocked eyes and helpless voices.

“Last night, I was to go to church but the night before is pure gunshot. So I didn’t bother to go because I was too afraid to go out,” said Elaine Redding, 68.

“Me really afraid. Because me can’t take lick much less gunshot. They might don’t kill anybody that time, but what dem a do with the guns?”

Redding told our news team that she has been living in the fishing village for more than 46 years.

That was before guns and drugs started to replace fish on the boats and other vessels heading to and from the beach.

DRUGS-FOR-GUNS TRADE

“It is because of the drugs-for-guns trade, and let me tell you something, there are some big men behind it,” said Redding.

“Me live a dat house and before, you could just shut your grille and leave your door open till any hours you come back up. Nobody would go in there, nobody would trouble anything,” recounted the elderly woman.

“Now you have to mind how you a walk. If you see a strange person, you have to mind how you a look pon him too hard or else is gunshots,” continued Redding.

She expressed doubt that the Church would be able to save some of the more battle-hardened youngsters in the community.

“They are saying that the Church must do something, but there is nothing that the Church can do. We pray with them and it come as if ... God has to come Himself and make the difference,” said Redding.

Situated not far from the flood-prone Portland Cottage community, Rocky Point is a small fishing community, with zinc fences, wooden shacks, and unregistered adults and children.

A main road joins one end of the community dubbed ‘Cay’ in the east and another section known as ‘West End’.

Residents are aware that the community market located midway between the two areas acts as the line of demarcation, and also the scene of most incidents.

There are persons from either side of the divide who have not ventured to the market in months despite living metres away.

Others have either been stabbed, shot, or have cowered in fear as armed thugs aligned to the ‘Compton’ gang, whose stamping ground is at Cay, and the ‘Cuban’ gangsters who reside in West End, square off.

Residents said late last year, two men from either side were killed within hours of each other.

One of the men, they said, was related to a “top man” from West End, and they expect reprisals anytime now.

Shopkeepers have practised closing their doors as early as 6 p.m.

“It is a very technical zone and it is unstructured. The illegal drug activity is really serious there,” said Superintendent Vendolyn Cameron-Powell, head of the Clarendon Police Division, which recorded more than 130 murders last year.

Rocky Point accounted for six of these killings.

“Rocky itself needs a lot of other agencies because a lot of children and even their parents have never been to school. They have never been registered. So it needs some other agencies to come in.

“There are several other factors apart from policing that we need to fix in Rocky. I don’t want to say it is a forgotten place, but over time it is like it has just been left there. Most of what is happening is because of illegal drug activity,” added Cameron-Powell.

Mayor of May Pen Winston Maragh told members of a Gleaner special assignment team, which visited the parish last week, that he will be embarking on a community renewal initiative this year, According to Maragh, Rocky Point has been designated as one of the needy areas in Clarendon.

COMMUNITY RENEWAL PROGRAMME

“Yesterday (Wednesday) a team came from the PIOJ (Planning Institute of Jamaica) and they have this community renewal programme, and I gave them some communities that we need to look at,” said Maragh.

“I am planning a meeting with some stakeholders, and in another two weeks, we are going to bring in all the funding agencies to do some intervention. That is aimed at dealing with the crime situation,” added Maragh.

But even as the mayor plans his intervention, some youngsters who gathered near the market last Thursday told our news team that the community needs more attention and resources.

“Football is the only thing that is going to save we because is it alone we have. Is it alone bring the people them from the two sides together,” said Travis Elliot, making reference to a long-running football competition which has so far survived the plague of gun clashes in the community.

Elliot and others accept that it will be a rocky road to restore the community to its peaceful days but they are confident that it can be done.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com