Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Criminals killing the joy - Crime-ravaged communities face muted holiday celebrations

Published:Sunday | December 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Camille Davis has had little luck selling her Christmas toys in Maverley because of the violence.
Chad Matthews, a jerk chicken vendor, has seen a sharp decline in his business since the violence started.
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The festivities that normally accompany the Christmas celebration have been replaced by fear and apprehension in several communities across this island where residents are living in the shadow of the gun.

With more than 1,500 murders so far this year, residents in the violence-plagued communities in St James, Westmoreland, Hanover, St Catherine and the Corporate Area are entering this week's preparation for Christmas in a sombre mood, as criminals

continue to make their lives hellish.

Last week, our news team visited two St Andrew communities where

residents have been left more concerned with survival than celebrating the Christmas season.

"You can go about, but you have to be careful because it (the eruption of violence) is not like something that shows a signal; so anything can happen at any time. No signs, no symptoms; nothing," Georgia Grant of Oakwood Avenue in Maverley told The Sunday Gleaner.

"We usually have our family dinner and we are wondering how we are going to deal with it this year. It is very hard because I have spent all my life here and I have never seen it like this; this is the worst it has ever been," added Grant of the community where at least 15 persons have been killed,

several shot and injured and a number of houses firebombed over the past four months.

 

Nightlife curtailed

 

Business in the community has also been affected as no parties can be held and nightlife curtailed as residents have restricted their movement out of fear.

"Normally, what get the businesses going are parties in the nights," said jerk chicken vendor Chad Matthews from close to his base in the community.

"I would be out here from 12 midnight to probably three or four in the mornings, but now I have to pack up before 9, so that's a critical injury to the business.

"Before the violence erupted, for the week I would look on $70,000 to $80,000, now for the week I am looking at $25,000 to $30,000, so that's a drastic drop in the business. But I only hope that with time and patience it will gradually come back together, as this Christmas not looking as bright as the others," added Matthews.

Camille Davis was trying to sell her toys at West Main Drive in the com-munity when our news team visited. She lamented that the violence meant she was not getting the usual uptick in her sales in December.

"We have been out here trying to sell some toys, but things slow as you don't really find anybody passing up and down. The place tense; everybody a keep in," said Davis.

"Normally, two big dances would keep; one on the 23rd and one on the 27th, but nothing can't keep due to the violence in the community. And normally, people look forward to those (dances) to come and juggle their little things, but nothing this year."

According to 23-year-old Shericka Brown, she wants to spend the festive season anywhere else but in Maverley, as the violence has "spoilt Christmas".

"Because of the violence we can't go party and stuff like that," said Brown.

"I plan to go anywhere else to spend Christmas. They need to bring in ZOSO. I feel that would calm it."

It was a similar mood in the east Kingston community of Rockfort where, despite a lull in the gun violence which claimed at least 10 lives, the area remains tense.

"I am not feeling the Christmas at all. Not even pepper lights people putting up or keeping any get-together. Every night you still hear gunshots," said Rochelle Walker, who was a part of a group of mainly women doing bushing on Commission Road.

"No party can't get to keep around here and we can't get to go anywhere; the place just mash up. A pure foolishness a gwan, so not even the pickney dem can't too come out and get to run up and down again. As it reach 5:30 and it start get dark you have to lock in," added Walker.

She was supported by another woman, who said the violence has negatively impacted all areas of life in the community.

"You have people in the area, like me, who is a walk foot hairdresser, who walk from house to house to do hair, and when there is violence I can't do that," said the woman,

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com