Clarendon SOS | Residents avoiding May Pen like the plague
The high incidence of violent crime in the May Pen business and market district has sent jitters through business operators and shoppers in usually crowded streets, causing many to stay away altogether from the Clarendon capital.
One business person feeling the heat is restaurant owner Sharon Iron Francis, operator of Miroshas Deli and Restaurant, located at the newly built Elite Plaza in May Pen. Following the murder of 60-year-old vendor Patricia Harriott in the town, Francis said she has suffered a big loss in sales.
“I had to take the food to the May Pen Infirmary. It was a big shaving pan of rice and peas and big shaving pan of fried chicken,” she said.
Business has not picked up since then as she said that shoppers who used to mill around are now making shotgun buys and rushing back home.
“Business is really slow right now,” she said.
President of the Live Love Laugh Youth movement Rajae Lewis, whose organisation marched against child abuse in the town of May Pen last Friday, said that even as he pushed out in faith, he was fearful.
Business and shopping confidence has plummeted, operators say.
“I was in one of the Chinese stores yesterday and I have to be looking behind me because I am afraid. I feel nervous. As I go there, I just hurry up and try to get a taxi out of the town,” he told The Gleaner yesterday.
Two Sundays ago, a Chinese-Jamaican-operated supermarket was targeted by eight masked gunmen, toting high-powered assault weapons, who stole $3 million. Two policemen were injured in a fierce fight that lasted several minutes.
Three suspects have since been arrested.
Lewis is calling for May Pen to be declared a zone of special operations, a security mechanism the Government has used since 2017 to flood streets with police and soldiers, initially, before phasing in social interventions, community engagement, and infrastructural upgrades. ZOSOs have effected reductions in crime in Mount Salem, St James, and west Kingston.
“I am living in fear. I am walking in the town and I am wondering if persons are being targeted at random,” said Lewis.
Sharon Maye*, who lives in the troubled community of Juno Crescent, said these days, she avoids May Pen like the plague.
“If I don’t have to go to May Pen nowadays, I don’t ‘cause when I do, I just hurry up and get out of the town as you never know what’s going to happen, when and how,” she said.
She said she doesn’t know a moment’s peace until her children are home as they have to pass through the town to get a taxi.
“The minute they leave school, I start calling them and don’t stop until they get home. If I don’t get them on the phone, I feel like I am going to die,” she said.
Maye said it pains her heart that her beloved community has been overrun by criminals, adding that she is distraught by the characterisation of persons on social media, some of whom are calling for God to wipe out the entire parish.
“Not everyone in Clarendon is involved in wrong. There are many who are working hard and involved in organisations trying to make a difference,” Maye told The Gleaner. “Only prayer can help May Pen and my parish now.”
Security supervisor Eric Bryan, who works in the town, says he has to be on the alert at all times, adding that he no longer feels safe commuting in the capital.
“Walking in the town, you have to be scanning the faces; you are more like an observer. When you are inside your complex, you can’t drop your guard for a second,” he said.
* Sharon Maye – name changed by request.