Fri | Feb 21, 2020

MoBay market mayhem - Robbers swipe millions from vendors, shoppers; corporation promises security for Christmas

Published:Friday | December 13, 2019 | 12:20 AMHopeton Bucknor/Gleaner Writer
The Charles Gordon Market in Montego Bay, St James.
The Charles Gordon Market in Montego Bay, St James.


Despite the ongoing state of emergency in St James, robbers have laid siege to the Charles Gordon Market in the parish capital, fleecing vendors and shoppers of millions of dollars.

The St James Municipal Corporation, which operates the facility, has since vowed to ramp up security in a bid to boost public confidence.

“I am fully aware of these robberies, and I recently had a dialogue with Mayor Homer Davis about the security at the market,” Gerald Lee, the chief executive officer of the corporation, told The Gleaner in an interview Wednesday.

“As we speak, the mayor is in contact with the police, and a number of measures are now being put in place to address the crime situation at the market. I cannot discuss these measures with you at this time until they have been placed into operation,” added Lee.

Within recent weeks, vendors at the market have been complaining of being the target of armed thieves, who have robbed them and customers of cash and valuables running into millions of dollars.

Lloyd Bailey, a St Elizabeth businessman, told The Gleaner that on a recent visit to the market, he had fallen prey to the thieves, who stole a bag containing more than $180,000 from his minibus.

“Mi was really shock when mi find out seh di robber dem break one a mi pivot glass an’ open di door and t’ief the bag wid the money,” said Bailey. “A vendor see di bwoy dem a break out the glass, but dem couldn’t seh nothing because dem fraid a di bwoy dem.”

Bailey said he was directed to make a report at the police post at the market but discovered that it was closed. He said that he subsequently learned that the post was no longer operational.

Wardens afraid

When a Gleaner news team visited the police post on Wednesday, it was securely locked and no police officers were on the market compound. A municipal warden at the market said that his corps of colleagues could not challenge the heavily armed robbers.

“We have our families to think about and we are not armed,” the municipal warden said. “The police are supposed to be here on the ground, but they have, seemingly, abandoned the post in the market ... so we cannot put our lives on the line just like that.”

A number of vendors told The Gleaner of being fleeced of sums ranging from J$45,000 to J$115,000 in recent weeks.

“As far as I know, police are supposed to be there ... ,” a police officer who requested anonymity because he is not authorised to speak with the media said.

“It is, therefore, a big surprise to me that the police post is not in operation. I most definitely will be bringing this to the attention of the superintendent,” he said of divisional commander, Vernon Ellis.