Wed | Nov 20, 2019

Upscale heists - Residents blame increased construction activities for spike in crime

Published:Sunday | October 13, 2019 | 5:54 AMCorey Robinson - Staff Reporter
Mona Heights

Residents of the upscale Hope Pastures, Beverly Drive and Mona Heights communities in St Andrew say they are suffering from brazen thieves whose crimes are undeterred by police patrols and high-tech security systems.

The residents claim more than a dozen motor vehicles have been stolen from the communities in recent months, despite regular patrols by cops and measures implemented by at least two high-end security firms operating in the area.

In the meantime, other residents earlier this month bemoaned a spike in vehicle break-ins, daylight hold-ups by motorcyclists, and drug users trespassing on properties to steal fruits, furniture, and just about anything left unsecured.

Eighty-four-year-old Andrea Nephews*, who lives on Beverly Drive – metres from a home owned by Prime Minister Andrew Holness – was among the latest victims of motor vehicle theft. Her Suzuki Grand Vitara was stolen from her yard.

This was two weeks after criminals snuck into the home of a male resident not far from Nephews’ house, and made off with his Zamco motorbike. Both victims were still reeling from their loss when The Sunday Gleaner contacted them two weeks ago.

“The last time we saw the car was nine o’clock the night before when the helper went to close the gate. The car was very much in the carport,” recounted the elderly woman, her lilting voice cracking with despair.

“The following morning at six o’clock, when she [helper] opened up, there was no car,” she said. “It was gone.”

wary of community

Nephews said the incident has not only made her more dependent on relatives, but has left her wary of the community she has occupied for more than 50 years. Like residents of neighbouring communities, she blames a rise in construction and “strange faces” among the major contributors to criminality.

“It’s totally different now. When we came here we had absolutely no grille. Nobody troubled anybody… but now we have a lot of construction going on and we don’t know the faces of the people going up or down,” said Nephews.

Last week, the owner of the stolen motorcycle said he had given up on locating it, and, like Nephews, had lost faith in police investigations into the heist.

“We have problems with people who are constantly going on to premises, reaping people’s fruits. There is also an issue with men traveling on motorcycles and robbing people,” said the chief coordinator of the Mona Heights Neighbourhood Watch, who asked not to be named. “They (thieves) are everywhere and the police are trying, but while the area has expanded, the complement at the police station has not been increased.”

Michael Bramwell, president of the Beverly Hills Citizens’ Association Benevolent Society, shared similar sentiments. So did Cheryl Wright, president of the neighbouring Hope Pastures Citizens’ Association, members of which have suffered extensively from motor vehicle break-ins.

“The police are undersupplied with motor vehicles … . They have a wide area [to patrol] with limited resources, and they also have limited personnel at their disposal,” he said, noting that some residents are, however, expecting increased security because of the prominence of the area – home to several politicians, athletes and renowned businessmen.

Earlier this year, residents of nearby King’s House Avenue also expressed concerns about a series of break-ins, noting that it was revealed in a community meeting that only one service vehicle was operational at the Matilda’s Corner Police Station.

The administration at the Matilda’s Corner Police Station declined to respond to questions regarding the residents’ claims. One inspector told The Sunday Gleaner, however, that she was aware of a spate of motor vehicle thefts in the area, and that the police were actively meeting with residents to address the concerns.

*Not real name

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com