Maxfield tries to turn a new page
Patrina Pink, Gleaner Intern
Burnt-out homes. Fleeing families. Spent shells littering the ground. Women weeping. Calls for justice. A community in crisis.
That is the image that comes to mind when many Jamaicans think of Maxfield Park. Once a middle-class community, population drift has led to socio-economic decay and violent gangs filling the vacuum of leadership.
Yet, hope for Maxfield Park has not been extinguished. Despite the many challenges associated with life in the inner city, Maxfield Park has been making strides in promoting positive values among its young people while providing some of the social services the State has failed to furnish.
The Maxfield Square Neighbourhood Watch is one organisation leading the restoration process. Yesterday, the neighbourhood watch celebrated its 18th anniversary by hosting a special church service at the Pretoria Road United Church. In attendance was Inspector Dwayne Daley from the St Andrew South Police Division.
Daley, a former Kingston 13 resident, lauded the neighbourhood watch and expressed the need for strong police-citizenry relations like those in Maxfield Square.
"They are doing a great job. Our relationship with the people is better. We have weekly meetings and that has helped," he said.
President of the Maxfield Square Neighbourhood Watch, Jean Samuels, believes her organisation has had a strong impact in the community.
She said the high level of respect the neighbourhood watch commands is critical to its work.
"The young people of Maxfield Square have respect for the community. We built a welcome sign and no one put up any dancehall posters," she said. "We have clean-street competitions and we get old tyres and give them to the youths to plant flowers and beautify the community. The young people sweep the streets every morning."
Samuels believes the workof the neighbourhood watchhas enhanced environmental consciousness.
"We've seen where other parts of the community have been following the neighbourhood watch and what we do. When we started the clean-street competition, other sections started to take care of their streets too," she said.
Samuels was quick to point out that Maxfield Square, a small area on Maxfield Avenue, was "different in its doings" from the larger community. She said the neighbourhood watch has helped to stem the tide of crime and violence in this section of Maxfield Park.
"Before we had the neighbourhood watch, we had a lot of crimes like rape, robbery, people being held up with guns," she recalled.
Samuels said persons were branded informants and "no police could come to your door" .
She credits her organisation's policy of full engagement for the change in attitude to the police.
"As president, I don't isolate anyone. We get everyone involved in our activities, from the young babies to the elderly."
Daley attested to the work of the neighbourhood watch in promoting a healthy attitude towards the police and the information-gathering process. He, however, expressed concern about the 'informer-fi-dead' culture common in inner cities and said thugs were hell-bent on cultivating fear to sway residents not to report crime.
"These criminals are very smart. Sometimes they shoot persons and spread the rumour that that person went to the police, even when that individual did no such thing," Daley said.
The inspector was, however, hopeful of the work done by the community watchdog.
"The people who come to these meetings will always go back and have a positive outlook on the work of the police. They see that we are trying to help the community," he said.