Annotto Bay residents want an end to violence
ANNOTTO BAY, St Mary:
RESIDENTS OF Annotto Bay, St Mary, said they are fed up with violence in their community and want an end to it.
To this end, member of parliament for the area, Dr Winston Green, hosted a peace march and community meeting on Wednesday, alongside Minister of National Security Peter Bunting.
A delegation comprising dozens of local residents, community leaders and politicians took part in the march, which came nine days after police in the town killed a man who had allegedly murdered the mother of his child and her lover.
Speaking after the community meeting, which included a heated question-and-answer session, Bunting said although Annotto Bay had experienced a rapid increase in crimes such as robbery, scamming and five suspected murders since the start of the year, he remained hopeful that local residents would reverse the trend by working closer with the police.
Bunting told The Gleaner: "I think the Member of Parliament [for Southeast St Mary, Winston Green] invited me here to launch a partnership between the citizens and police to forestall any increase in crime in the town and his constituency.
"Unfortunately, the first few weeks of January have not been good, but we have seen in other parishes where a rocky start has been recovered, and I think that is the intention in Annotto Bay."
According to head of the police in St Mary, Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, the majority of serious and violent crimes committed in the parish since 2010 took place in Annotto Bay, and recent intelligence confirmed the existence of gunmen, robbers and at least two active gangs in the town.
GREATER LEADERSHIP NEEDED
Bunting believes that if these issues are to be addressed, responsible adults in the area must show greater leadership and work as a conduit between residents and the police.
He said: "The first thing is to get a broad cross-section of citizens, including the police, to go in and engage these communities around changing the norms. It's similar to what happens in many inner-city areas in Kingston where police officers have to double as social workers.
"When a mother sees her teenage son going off track, she can bring him to a police officer for counselling and, similarly, the pastor, teacher and justice of the peace all have to coalesce in terms of addressing this issue of violent crime."
Local resident Valerie Walters added: "This meeting was good, and the fact so many people came out means they are hurting. They are feeling the pinch and happy for this forum to express their feelings.
"I strongly believe the Annotto Bay community really needs somebody to help reason out their problems. If they had people who they could reason with, and show them the consequences of their actions, things would change and we'd see some improvements."