Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Long haul - Spanish Town residents urge Government to pump resources into former capital

Published:Tuesday | March 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
A female passenger is among several taken off a bus and their personal belongings searched at a checkpoint in Spanish Town, St Catherine, during the state of public emergency yesterday.

Some small business owners and residents in Spanish Town, St Catherine, are urging the Government to dedicate the requisite resources to fill the void after the state of public emergency is lifted.

They said that recent precedence of special emergency measures imposed in other areas suggests that not much is likely to change when the decision is taken to end the state of public emergency now under way in the St Catherine North Police Division, where 48 people have been murdered since the start of the year.

"To be frank, I think it's a waste of time, because, as you know, the first day is always successful, but after that, nothing else will happen. Hours after that all the gunmen a lock dem things and a chill, just waiting," said one man who operates a taxi service from Spanish Town to Portmore.

Citing recent developments in the zone of special operations-controlled Denham Town, where gunmen reportedly invaded a section of the community and shot dead two people, Spanish Town residents are adamant that unless strategic planning is employed, their town will only erupt into a worse state of affairs, once the security forces are withdrawn.

"Revenge is a big thing with these gang members. It's big-money war, turf war and, for them, a lot is at stake. So, the authorities will have to start thinking strategically," said Thompson Pen resident Rupert Wright.

One Jones Avenue resident told The Gleaner that the absence of a targeted and thorough social intervention plan aimed at empowering young men will leave a vacuum that can only be filled by those fighting for turf.

"This will not stop only because a state of public emergency is in place. The question is, what will follow? What alternatives will there be when it is all over?" he asked.

Approximately 123 people, including three wanted men, were taken into custody for processing during the first 24 hours of the state of public emergency imposed in the St Catherine North Police Division. Twenty-seven remain in custody, while 96 have been processed and released.

Four members of the Montego Bay based G-City Gang were also picked up in the dragnet Sunday, according to the police.

The state of emergency is centred in and around communities of the Old Capital, including Jones Avenue, Lakes Pen, Shelter Rock, De La Vega City, Thompson Pen, Tredegar Park and March Pen Road. The special security measures also impact adjoining areas further north such as Linstead, Bog Walk and Central Village to the east.

One man who gave his name to The Gleaner only as 'Nackatari' said that the state of emergency was a long-overdue step and that he felt much could be gained from it.

"Dem can stay yah as long as dem like; I feel safe," he said from his seat in the bus park, which has become a killing field for gun-toting thugs and which stands at the centre of the deadly but lucrative extortion racket controlled by rival Clansman Gang operatives.

"If they follow up after this, I am sure something good could come from it. All that is needed is a real plan, not the regular fixing of some roads and opening a homework centre. They have to do more," he said.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com