Crime giving us a fight
The post-bauxite era has brought several challenges that could derail development plans for the parish of Manchester.
The main challenges most Manchester business leaders agree, is the rising crime wave, especially in areas just outside the Mandeville city centre.
"We won't exist if crime is where it is now," declared Winston Lawson, president of the Man-chester Chamber of Commerce.
Pastor of Ridgemont United Church, Reverend Oliver Daley, was even more forthright.
"I can tell you that there is serious deepening concern and anxiety about safety and security issues in this town and adjoining communities and I don't think I am exaggerating it," he said.
Both Lawson and Daley were among the business and civic leaders who participated in a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum at the Golf View Hotel in the parish.
Police statistics show that only 40 of the 1,680 murders recorded in Jamaica last year were committed in Manchester.
Speaking at the forum, Assistant Superintendent Llamar Clarke conceded that the police have seen an increase in crimes such as robberies and break-ins.
He said this was being fuelled by the loss of certain bauxite jobs and an extortion racket in the Mandeville bus park, which has its roots in Kingston.
Clarke said this is further compounded by the fact that criminal elements are migrating to Manchester from other parishes.
"There are intelligent criminals out there and they know how to get to these people," he said.
There was general agreement that the installation of closed-circuit cameras, valued at $5.5 million, in the Mandeville city centre had contributed to a reduction in crime in those areas.
Consequently, Lawson wants that initiative expanded to areas where crime is on the increase.
"If it has worked there, it should naturally be able to work elsewhere, said the Chamber of Commerce head.
Reverend Daley argued that there has to be a more concerted effort by community groups to come together and organise themselves.
"We believe it has to be the way forward in terms of some of the safety and security issues that are attending the communities around Mandeville," he said.
In addition to increased police presence in some of the affected areas, ASP Clarke said the police will be reaching out to more neighbourhood watch groups to sensitise them about some of the tricks used by robbers.