Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Probing Portland | Portlanders feel less safe than in the past

Published:Friday | May 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines/Gleaner Writer
Collin Bell (left) and Errol Hanna

Long-time residents of Portland have agreed that the eastern Jamaica parish remains a safe place to live, but at the same time, they have admitted that in the past, they felt much safer.

The Portlanders, who on Thursday participated in a Gleaner Editors' Forum centred on crime in the parish, cited migration of criminals from other parishes, the increased use of illegal guns, and the current crime wave affecting the country as reasons for their recent unease.

"Although we say we're in a safe parish, and we have the numbers to prove it, five murders in four months can't be tolerated. It shouldn't be, apart from domestic murders, which you can't stop," declared Errol Hanna, a hotelier and restaurateur who operates in the parish.

"We have to consider the rise in crime, nationally, and the movement of people across borders. There's no question that they could end up right here, and, not having any 'food' to eat per se, they could zero in on me at any time," he contended.


Address national crime rate


Colin Bell, a representative of Wilson's Enterprise in the parish, agreed with Hanna: "Yes, you feel safe in Portland, but the crime rate is high in Jamaica, and [this] is a small island, so I don't feel as safe as I would want to be and as I used to be. If we don't address the crime rate nationally, I am of the opinion that in the near, future, it could affect us."

Bell further reasoned: "Portland is also a coastline parish. We have a lot of open coastline, and one of my concerns is that the guns- for-drugs trade is one that I believe Portland has some dealings in."

President of the Portland Neighbourhood Watch Council Michael Anderson also reasoned that the threat of outside criminal elements is cause for concern. Resident Marcia Lawrence chimed in: "Couple years ago, I felt safer, but now, there's that little element out there that makes you slightly concerned."

In responding to the views of residents, Superintendent of Police Duane Wellington said: "It is a fair comment to make - that they're not feeling that safe, but Portland has something good going in that there is definitely a good partnership with the police and the citizens. Once we continue to be partners in the fight against crime, we can achieve much more."