Western parishes hit 300 murders and counting
Despite a range of new initiatives, the parishes of Hanover, Westmoreland and St James, which are home to the nation's two main tourist resort towns (Montego Bay and Negril), remain the hub of the nation's bloodletting, with a collective total of more than 300 murders since the start of the year.
In the latest statistics released by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), St James currently leads the nation with 186 since the start of the year. Westmoreland, with 88, and Hanover, with 44, also hold prominent places.
While several prominent stakeholders are expressing confidence that the back of the lawlessness will soon be broken, it would appear that the optimism is not shared by some police personnel, who are of the view that they are not equipped to create the desired impact.
LACK OF RESOURCES
"We don't have the required resources and we are being overworked ... . Fatigue is setting in," a veteran lawman told The Gleaner. "The leadership is playing along with tourism people, who would prefer to give the impression that things are getting better.
"Things are not rosy," continued the lawman. "Three hundred murders between St James, Hanover and Westmoreland since the start of the year, poor working conditions, a well-armed criminal network and constant pressure from INDECOM ... , the situation is not pretty."
Prior to his recent transfer, Assistant Commissioner of Police Warren Clarke, who was the commanding officer for Area One, openly bemoaned the shortage of resources in the region.
"The JCF is one of the agencies that has not kept apace with development in terms of infrastructure. There is also a disproportionate deployment of the force in the west," Clarke said. "Although western Jamaica accounts for 40 per cent of the country's violent crimes, there is not an equitable distribution of resources here."
Police determined to arrest crime in western Ja
While the overall picture in the region looks bleak, Hanover appears to be making some headway. In addition to the deaths of top violence producers Shenarda 'Blacks' Leslie and Sadan 'Saddam' Mullings, who were killed by the police, several gangsters have been arrested and weapons seized.
"We are keeping our fingers crossed that the worst is now behind us," said Deputy Superintendent of Police Sharon Beeput, the commanding officer for Hanover. "We are aiming for a significant reduction in crime by the end of the year as we are determined to arrest the situation."
In Westmoreland, where lottery scamming has seemingly taken a stranglehold on the parish, Central Westmoreland's Member of Parliament Dwayne Vaz says he is trying his best to counteract the problem through education and training.
"We can't allow crime to destroy the parish, so our resolve is to invest in education and training for the young people," said Vaz. "We just have to find creative ways to steer our young people into legitimate endeavour."
With the Government's latest crime initiative, the zones of special operations law, poised to be rolled out soon, many critical stakeholders across the western region are hoping that the parishes of St James, Westmoreland and Hanover will be among the first to be targeted.