Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Take back Half-Way Tree from lawlessness

Published:Tuesday | October 16, 2018 | 12:05 AM


This is an open letter to the commissioner of police, Major General Antony Anderson.

I have to admit that I was one of the many Jamaicans who wondered if your appointment as the top police officer was just another appointment.

After all, with the exception of the success of the state of emergency, where the security forces are given special powers of arrest and detention, to be used primarily against hardened criminals and gunmen, ordinary citizens didn't feel or see the police doing much to make us feel more secure.

You have said in a recent statement that you were taking stock of the organisation to see its strengths and weakness. I'm very pleased to note that the stocktaking is over and you have moved to start selling the services of the police to us.

This is evident in the newly rolled out combined Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch, which is directed at increasing policing in urban areas.

This newly rolled out programme, though well intentioned, does not seem to be reaping the results.

Half-Way Tree is still in a mess, with minibus and taxi operators jostling for passengers and pedestrians crossing roads with impunity. HWT requires a kind of SWAT team of at least 100 police officers to wrest control from the undisciplined taxi drivers and vendors. There must not be any argument about who is in charge. After order is restored, the initial numbers could be reduced, but a constant presence of 50 officers is needed to ensure order on a day-to-day basis.

Specific areas should be denoted as taxi stands, and passengers must join a line on a first-come, first-serve basis. Special vending areas that do not block pedestrian movement should be established and vigorously enforced.

I believe that if the police can reverse the clearly uncivilised behaviour and reclaim Half-Way Tree from its ramshackle state, it would provide a much-needed confidence boost to tackle other town centres.