Violence Interrupters | Pauline trained to ‘hear shots’ in Denham Town
A knock at her gate in the wee hours of the morning is usually an indication to Pauline Perez that someone, somewhere in Denham Town, West Kingston is in trouble.
Often times, it’s someone wanting her to give them a letter of reference so they can go to seek bail for a loved one who has been taken into custody by the police, but sometimes, it’s because violence has erupted in the community.
The 60-year-old market clerk is a violence interrupter and so she often seeks opportunities to spread the message of peace.
“We as females, will tell you that it is not easy. I’m in my bed all two o’clock before day — because it look like we are trained to ‘hear shots’ — and shots a fire and my daughter will say where you going? I would say I am going outta door. You must see somebody on the road and find out what took place,” said Perez.
“You know how much time we prevent things from happening? You know how much time man arms up and decide to go and fire shot because boy diss them and somebody in a the group would call me and me run go and we talk to them and everything just die down.
“They look at us as a mother figure, you know like the mother that they never had. Them can tell you anything and know that it stays right there,” Perez toldThe Sunday Gleaner.
Perez is a Justice of the Peace and so she is well known in the community. She is often the bridge between warring factions. When a bicycle is stolen from one section of the community for example, she is the one invited to the area where the allege thief lives to retrieve it.
As a violence interrupter, she is a first responder. This means, she is among the first set of persons on a crime scene to quell any possible reprisals.
“If shot a fire, we run out, but we have to be careful; we are not going to run out same time and run go in it,” she said.
Perez gets a stipend from the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) for helping to maintain the peace, but often times, this money goes back into doing work for the community.
“We don’t work for the money. We work because we want our community to be better. We don’t watch the money,” added Perez.
Working as a Justice of the Peace in a crime zone means that she has to be versed in the law and compassionate as well.
“If I do 50 letter heads, it don’t serve me for a month,” she shared
“I don’t know why these young guys feel like say they can just go and buy a bike and just ride it. They don’t feel like say them must get it straight. So every minute them arrest a man and what is the charge? A bike mi a ride ennuh Ms Pauline and I don’t have any license and I don’t have any helmet and I don’t have any insurance,” she explained.
Her job maintaining the peace is a 24 hour one and even when ill, she never takes a break.
“We do it because it is our community, and we want to see the violence stop,” she said.