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Pushing Portland | Police vow to keep 'safest parish' title

Published:Sunday | February 12, 2017 | 12:00 AMMark Titus
Ian Allen/Photographer The Port Antonio Police Station in the heart of Portland.
Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer Swearing

With Jamaica re-cording approximately 1,350 murders last year, the quiet eastern parish of Portland saw a more than 50 per cent jump in its murder total but still kept its place as the most peaceful parish in the island.

And Deputy Superintendent of Police Rex Swearing, who heads the Portland police, is determined to keep it that way.

"We intend to do whatever it takes to continue being the safest parish in Jamaica," Swearing told The Sunday Gleaner recently.

"We have been very consistent, and community-based policing is the perfect tool to ensure that our crime rate reduces significantly," added Swearing.

Last year, 15 murders were recorded in Portland, six more than the nine lives that were snuffed out violently for 2015, and that is too many for Swearing.

"Only two major crimes showed increase last year over 2015 .... we saw an increase in murder and in aggravated assault. We believe our parish is not where it should be, but in terms of our ranking as the safest parish in Jamaica, it is where it is and we believe it will continue to be so," said the Portland top cop.

According to Swearing, his team will be moving to ensure that all dormant police youth clubs and neighbourhood watch groups are reinvigorated; while stop and searches and raids will be increased significantly.

"There is also a challenge in our major towns, and we will be maintaining public order, because we believe if the streets are not as clear as they should be, this can hamper movements."

Concerns have been expressed by some stakeholders that the continuous lack of economic activity and the increasing number of unemployed youths in the parish could lead to an increase in criminal activities over time, but Swearing has vowed that the men and women under his command will react to prevent any spike in lawlessness.

"It is foolhardy to say that economical challenges might not be one of the variables that might contribute to crime, because researches have shown that this could be so, but over the years, Portland has not had a lot of opportunities in terms of investment, but it still remains the safest parish.

"I can give the assurance that we do intend to operate robustly to minimise any fallout the parish may have as it relates to lack of economic activity contributing to crime," added Swearing.