Deputy Superintendent Rudolph Taylor (left) shows off the AR-18 rifle, which was seized along with five other illegal weapons during a joint police-military operation conducted at Sammy Bush in Norwood, St. James, on March 29. Assistant Commissioner Keith Gardner in charge of Area One police is at right. -PHOTO BY ADRIAN FRATER
LAST WEEK'S seizure of six firearms, inclusive of an unusual AR-18 Armolite assault rifle, during a police-military operation in the Norwood area of Montego Bay, has once again brought to the fore the immense dangers lurking in the inner-city communities in and around the western city.
"We literally have a killing field surrounding Montego Bay and we can't allow things to continue like this," said Dr. Horace Chang, the Member of Parliament for volatile North West St. James, which includes the Norwood area. "We have got to find ways to put an end to this problem."
The potential hot spots as outlined by the St. James Police High Command, include communities such as Norwood, Salt Spring, Quarry, Bottom Pen, Blood Lane, Canterbury and Green Pond, which jointly accounted for over 80 per cent of the close to 600 murders committed in St. James over the past five years.
While his pleas for central government's help in implementing social intervention programmes to counteract the scourge of crime and violence remain largely unheeded, Dr. Chang remains resolute that without training and job opportunities, the numerous illegal guns in idle hands will remain a constant threat to public safety.
SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE
"We have got to find ways to socialise those who are involved in the violence and then develop a programme to train them and bring them into productive endeavours," Dr. Chang recently told The Sunday Gleaner. "We can't just sit back and watch. Something needs to be done."
While not rejecting Dr. Chang's assertion, law enforcement officials have long been adopting a posture that the violence and criminal mayhem in Montego Bay's 19 inner-city communities are being driven by a hidden hand-powerful drug lords, some of whom occupy prominent places in society.
"Montego Bay is a drug den where high-profile criminals operate with impunity," Superintendent Newton Amos proclaimed prior to being reassigned after heading the St. James Police Division for close to two years. "Some of these men occupy prominent positions in this community and wield a lot of power."
In the aftermath of Mr. Amos' statement, which evoked the wrath of some prominent members of the Montego Bay business community, some residents who were labelled high-profile drug dealers by local and international narcotic officials, were arrested pending extradition to the United States.
During a visit to Montego Bay last year, National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips, blamed the city's crime on the transatlantic drug trade, which he described as a cancer that must be rooted out.
"It is like a cancer: When you cut it out it is painful, but leaving it there will certainly kill you," Dr. Phillips stated. "Leaving the drug trade and the druggist to continue will definitely kill Jamaica and its way of life as we know it."
Following the infamous 'Battle of Canterbury' in October 2003, in which armed thugs engaged the security forces in an eight-hour shoot-out, security officials recovered several firearms, including one never seen in Jamaica before; they tied the weapons to the drug trade.
While no official link was ever established, Senior Superintendent Donald Pusey, who flew into Montego Bay to assist the local police in the Canterbury unrest, said that based on the dollar value of the weapons and ammunition recovered, he had no doubt that funding from the drug trade contributed to their acquisition.
"Look at the poor state of these communities; these people can't afford these very expensive weapons," Supt. Pusey said. "I believe that these weapons came from persons who are tied to the drug trade and have the finances to buy these weapons."
The ties between the international drug trade and Montego Bay's inner city were firmly established in February following the police's investigations into a brutal triple murder in the Blood Lane area, where brothers Senil and Derrick Taylor, both deportees, and a female companion were shot and killed gangland-style.
"They were both deportees, they were no angels," Superintendent John Morris, Area One crime officer told The Sunday Gleaner. "Both of them had extensive criminal records in the United States and had served time in prison. One was deported four times and the other once."
Subsequent investigation of the Taylor brothers' background suggested that their deaths might have been ordered by criminal elements in the United States with strong links to the criminal underworld in Montego Bay.