Criminals living large in St James
With criminals moving into and operating from abandoned homes in the upscale Ironshore and Coral Gardens communities in Montego Bay, St James, the Police High Command for the parish has assigned a unit to remove the illegal occupants.
Speaking at a Gleaner mini-forum in Montego Bay, Senior Superintendent of Police Steve McGregor said the two upscale communities, which are situated close to some of the island's finest luxury hotels, are being plagued by illegal occupants, many of whom are suspected to be involved in criminal activities in the area.
"We have a programme now, that we are going after the abandoned houses in Coral Gardens and Ironshore, and you would be surprised about the amount of houses in Coral Gardens and Ironshore that people have captured," McGregor said. "Structured houses, you know, 'boasy' houses that people (owners) either are in prison abroad or run away, or started and not finished.
"So we have started to reclaim them; we are looking for the owners. Because, guess who are in these houses? Criminals! prostitutes! People teck ova di house dem and rent dem and this is the recipe [for lawlessness]. The upsurge in robberies in the Coral Gardens and Ironshore areas is attributed to this, and we have started to work on this," said McGregor.
It is also believed the abandoned homes, which are usually located on fairly large lots with trees and shrubs, are highly favoured by persons involved in the lottery scam, as unless being called by residents, the police rarely venture into these communities.
McGregor said the squatting issue in Coral Gardens and Ironshore was only one of several factors contributing to the spate of lawlessness plaguing Montego Bay and its surrounding communities.
"So, you know, the myriad problems that we have and the foresight that we are using, a lot of people don't understand and imagine how complex the whole approach to managing crime and violence in St James is," said McGregor. "People are now realising that you have to prioritise the areas that are causing the problem. If you fix St James, Westmoreland, Clarendon, and St Catherine, our problem - as it relates to crime and violence in Jamaica - in my view, is three-quarters solved because those are the areas where we are having issues."