Bloody west at crossroads - Cops hopeful, stakeholders mulling solution
With more than 260 murders since the start of the year, the police's Area One division is the nation's undisputed murder capital and should be significantly impacted when the Zones of Special Operations crime-fighting initiative comes on stream.
Based on the latest Jamaica Constabulary Forces (JCF) weekly Periodic Serious Crime Reviews, St James, with 141 killings since the start of the year, leads the nation's murder count. Westmoreland, 70; Hanover, 38 and Trelawny, 11, also carry less-than-encouraging numbers.
Despite the stark picture of the bloodletting to date, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Warren Clarke, the region's commanding officer, is confident that there will be a turnaround in the lawlessness, which is causing much anxiety among tourism and business process outsourcing (BPO) stakeholders.
"Under the recently introduced joint police and military surge, we are targeting gang organisation and we are aiming to arrest wanted persons, including multiple murderers," ACP Clarke told The Gleaner recently. "We are confident the new measures will yield positive results."
In Hanover, which has seen a quadruple, two triple murders and three double murders since the start of the year, optimism is quite high that better days are ahead following the death of notorious gangster Shenarda 'Blacks' Leslie, who was implicated in 15 murders committed in the parish since the start of the year.
"Since that man (Leslie) was killed in a confrontation with the police, not even a catapult nuh fire inna the parish since that...trust me, it is such a relief," a resident of Mt Pleasant, one of the communities Leslie had under siege, told The Gleaner on Monday. "We are just hoping and praying that we will now see a lasting peace."
Much work to be done to smash major gangs
Deputy Superintendent of Police Sharon Beeput, the commanding officer for the Hanover Police Division, says her officers will not be resting on their laurels as there is still much work to do in the dismantling of the parish's three major criminal gangs.
"We now have several gangsters in custody and last week we seized an assault rifle ... an M16, so you can see, we are out there working hard to get the criminal and the illegal guns off the streets," said Beeput. "We are calling on the citizen to partner with us, as together we can make their communities safe again."
In Montego Bay, where the bloodletting reached an all-time low on Friday when a 14-year-old boy shot and killed a nine-year-old girl with an illegal firearm, stakeholders are looking at staging a crime summit to put their position on the table in regard to the hunt for solutions.
"I don't have all the answers, and it is in that context that I plead for a joint summit of stakeholders to look at this issue in a fulsome way," said government Senator Charles Sinclair, one of the persons pushing for a crime summit. "We cannot wish our crime problem away; we have to find workable solutions."