Mon | Jul 22, 2019

Curb the crime! - Bloodshed in Bull Bay painful for former resident-turned-politician in the US

Published:Sunday | January 27, 2019 | 12:20 AMCorey Robinson/Staff Reporter
Ranglin-Vassell
The sign which separates the St Thomas section of Bull Bay from the section in St Andrew.
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A Jamaica-born politician in the United States is urging the State to pump more resources into impoverished war-torn communities such as her hometown, Bull Bay, St Andrew.

Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, a Democratic member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and a former resident of 11 Miles, Bull Bay, says addressing joblessness and poverty is most important to stemming violence in these communities.

Ranglin-Vassell left Jamaica for the US in 1990, hoping to escape rampant killings in her home community at that time. Years later and thousands of miles away, news of the latest feud in the East Rural St Andrew area has rehashed memories she has fought hard to forget.

“My grand-uncle was killed in 1976, and I literally can count about nine or 10 people who have died that I know in Bull Bay. I actually saw them on the ground while I was growing up,” Ranglin-Vassell told The Sunday Gleaner.

She said one of the victims of the latest flare-up of violence, a businessman, was a long-time friend.

“It really got to me because I grew up in that, and yet so many years later nothing has changed,” said Ranglin-Vassell, who visits the island biannually to donate and participate in a local summer programme.

LACK OF INVESTMENT

She also recruits American doctors to volunteer their services in Jamaica as part of a free clinic she stages in Bull Bay.

“It really bothers me, the lack of investment in the area over decades, not just since this (political) party. There has been very little investment in the community,” said Ranglin-Vassell, who has been lobbying for greater gun control in the US where gun violence continues to plague youths.

“I can only say that it is because people are poor, and the Government doesn’t see a lot of hope for people when they are poor,” she argued.

According to Ranglin-Vassell, because of the violence she is unsure if she will visit Bull Bay during her next trip to Jamaica in two weeks. This would be the first time she visits the island without returning to the community where her roots are planted.

“I just don’t know what is going on there, and it doesn’t seem that law enforcement is capable to address the issue,” said Ranglin-Vassell, as she underscored that 11 Miles, Bull Bay, is under the jurisdiction of the Yallahs police in the St Thomas Police Division, while Nine Miles has a police station in the area and is in the Kingston Eastern Police Division.

Ranglin-Vassell’s call for the Government to address joblessness and poverty in Bull Bay has been echoed by Paul Hibbert, president of the Bull Bay Football Club.

He argued that the club’s football field, which could be destroyed to make way for the new highway to be built through the community, is the only green space and neutral ground in Bull Bay.

Last Thursday, Superintendent Victor Hamilton, head of the Kingston East Police Division, told reporters that at least five persons have been killed in Bull Bay since the start of the year.

“The challenges that St Thomas has is the same challenges that we have because it is the same set of gangs,” he said, adding that Bull Bay’s hilly terrain provides cover for the warring factions.

“Persons don’t necessarily have to use the main road to get from one area to the other, and there are several gangs that use the bushes as cover,” said Hamilton.

Two weeks ago, residents of the community criticised the authorities for neglecting the community, areas of which have been without potable water and under the guns for months.

Last week, they welcomed a meeting with their political representatives and the police, which followed a Sunday Gleaner feature on crime in the community last week.

The residents said they hope the meeting will at least lead to a ceasefire in the community that has seen an orgy of violence since late last year.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com