Fri | Feb 28, 2020

August Town on edge as security forces keep close watch

Published:Monday | January 20, 2020 | 12:12 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
ABOVE: Soldiers on patrol in August Town, St Andrew, last Tuesday as tension builds in the community following two shootings late last year.
ABOVE: Soldiers on patrol in August Town, St Andrew, last Tuesday as tension builds in the community following two shootings late last year.

Residents of August Town are concerned that the zero-murder status they are aiming to achieve once again this year could be already under threat following violent incidents over the past month, leaving one resident dead outside of the community and another injured within the space.

They are hoping that the peace experienced after the tragic passing of nine-year-old Kyle Richards – who was washed away after he fell in a gutter during heavy rains in September 2019, rallying rival factions in a joint community search – will last.

“A tension is [building] now, but we still a try to do our best. The place is on edge since the [latest] shooting,” a resident told The Gleaner last week. “The youth who dem shoot up is still alive and him a talk a who, so you know anything can happen at any time.”

Other residents shared similar concerns and are hoping for a ramping up of peace-building efforts.

“Well, currently, there is a tension in the community. The tension just started up back,” Yanelia Henry said, as she reflected on the welcome change in the atmosphere after the tragedy last September.

Unity under threat

Veneisha Phillips, councillor for the August Town division, admitted to The Gleaner that the unity harnessed since young Kyle’s passing is under threat.

“You know, we have elements in the community who are not just irresponsible [for the shooting], but I think they are restless in terms of how they operate; and I think there are some things going on in the community that threaten the stability and the peace there,” she said. “Most of the areas in the community now are under some kind of tension because of shootings and stuff that has happened and, in fact, a killing that happened outside that is possibly linked to inside, or is said to be linked to inside.”

Philips said despite this, she is hoping the community, which has been a hotbed of crime for many years, will again attain the murder-free status which brought much celebration after a homicide-free 2016.

“We are working to see if we can head that off before it gets any further. There have been no murders in the space since 2020, and we are praying that we will be able to keep it that way,” she said.

“We are fighting to keep the guys apart and make sure we find the reason for this new conflict so that we can fix it,” Phillips added.

The Gleaner was unable to reach Member of Parliament Fayval Williams or Senior Superintendent Jacqueline Coombs, commanding officer for the St Andrew Central Police Division, for comment.

Since 2017, August Town has been struggling to keep the peace, with the community marred by spate of murders and shootings linked to warring factors.