Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Cops target downtown Kingston - Police launch new public order operation in market district

Published:Sunday | September 25, 2016 | 9:00 AMCorey Robinson
Assistant Commissioner Assan Thompson (left) explains the plan to take back the streets of downtown Kingston to a group of worshippers in Parade last Thursday.
Members of the police force on foot patrol in downtown Kingston last week as part of an initiative to restore order to the market district.
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The police have vowed to take back the streets of downtown Kingston following an upsurge in lawlessness in the market district in recent weeks.

Assistant Commissioner Assan Thompson - who heads the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Area Four, which includes Kingston East, Kingston Central, Kingston West, St Andrew South and St Andrew Central police divisions - last week announced that in addition to tackling the gangsters head-on, the cops will incorporate a public-order approach.

"We have seen the need to deal with public order and public safety as a high priority, and so we have indexed a high level of importance to the maintenance of public order and public safety," Thompson said, as he led a team from Harman Barracks on South Camp Road to downtown Kingston last Thursday.

"We believe that if public order is broken down in these public spaces, the criminals will get greater opportunity to commit crimes. While we deal with crime as the end result of something that has gone wrong, we are going to look at what is giving rise to the problem. We are going out there this morning to seriously look at how we maintain public order and public safety," added Thompson

Last Thursday's operation started at 11 a.m. and targeted the usual suspects: illegal vendors, illegal taxi operators, 'loader men', robbers, extortionists, and anyone else who could not account for their purpose at the bus terminus in Parade, as well as Beckford and Pechon streets and their environs.

Less than half an hour into the operation, a police minivan was half-filled with men deemed fitting the description of suspects.

At other locations, police teams carried out searches, directed traffic, and explained the reasons for the operation to pedestrians.

Their explanation, however, did not go down well with a group of Christian worshippers huddled under the 'Big Tree' on Orange Street. There, the officers' presence was rebuked by the worshippers, as a group of higglers lambasted them for the impromptu operation.

Such police public-order operations are not new to downtown Kingston. Late last year, head of the Traffic Division, Senior Superintendent Calvin Allen, and then head of Kingston Central, Superintendent Michael Scott, launched similar initiatives and promised equal results.

But according to Thompson, this time will be different.

"What is new about this one is the intensity and the plan to sustain it. We have gone about it before, but we usually do it on a one-track basis and then leave it alone. Now we want the intensity to be created; we want people to see and feel it."

Even as the assistant commissioner took to the streets himself, instructing the men and women under his command, directing members of the public and reprimanding others, it was clear that not all the cops were confident of success.

"Downtown cannot tame. You will never be able to tame downtown. This place has already gotten out of hand," one police sergeant told The Sunday Gleaner.

"The people are not talking to the police. You will stand right here and hear four shots fire around the road and by the time you leave and go around there, people say you a idiot because the man walk past you," said one you policeman.

"But if nobody says anything to you, and the man puts away the gun and is walking - not running - past you, how will you know that is him just kill a man around the road?" added the young cop in seeming despair.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com