Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
The police are moving to assure residents of Mandeville and adjoining communities in Manchester that the area remains safe despite several recent front-page-grabbing crime reports.
The killing of two prominent doctors, a number of robberies and other shootings have left some individuals frightened, but the cops argue that residents of the once-sleepy town are not paralysed by this fear.
"It is important that we make a distinction between crime and the fear of crime," said Assistant Commissioner of Police Derrick Cochrane, who heads Area Three which covers St Elizabeth, Clarendon and Manchester.
"Yes, there is crime, but importantly, the fear of crime is not paralysing people, preventing them from going about their day-to-day business," argued Cochrane.
He noted that some communities in Manchester are on the police's radar.
These include Comfort, Settlement, Barnstable, Top Greenvale, Bottom Greenvale, Knockpatrick, Waltham, Royal Flat and Georges Valley.
Pointing to the July murder of well-known radiologist, Dr Phillip Chamberlain, among other recent crimes, Cochrane claimed that many of the criminals operating in the parish are not residents.
"We do not have the problem with gangs which leads to the multiple murders on the scale of a Spanish Town (St Catherine) or Kingston," said Cochrane.
"But the police can't be everywhere. We can't post police officers in people's houses to settle disputes, so individuals have to learn tolerance and learn to settle dispute in a non-violent way. But I have to say that our officers are very visible, especially in the town.
"There has to be a sense of social responsibility on the part of citizens. Secure your property, including your valuables. To the returning residents, do not just lock up your houses and go away without telling someone. Tell a neighbour, tell the police," he suggested.
Mandeville, which has long been a haven for returning residents, now enjoys a robust night-life, evidenced by the large numbers of locals and foreigners spotted by a Sunday Gleaner team at several nightspots last week.
Supporting Cocrhane's claim that Mandeville is still safe, some business operators and residents told The Sunday Gleaner team that in spite of the recent crimes they are not worried.
"Yes, it is a safe town, but it is not the sleepy town we once knew. Mandeville has seen significant commercial changes over the last 20 years, and with that comes some antisocial behaviour," said Dwight Newman, businessman and resident of Mandeville.
Newman lived in the town as a youngster while attending school, before leaving for some 20 years.
He returned to Mandeville just over a year ago to start a business and has made property just outside the town his place of rest.
"There is growing indiscipline in the town, caused by pedestrians and drivers alike, that has caused a lot of delays just getting by," said Newman.
The congestion Newman sees on the streets has forced police patrolling the area to be largely on foot, as response teams are likely to be caught in the heavy traffic if they drive.
While Dave Beadle, business operator in Willogate Plaza, agrees that there is a high visibility of the police in the town, he charged that the plazas are the scenes of undisciplined behaviour, especially by schoolchildren.
"I have to personally run the students from off the plaza's in the evenings. It's a congregation point for students, and all kinds of inappropriate behaviours are carried out here.
"It's part of a general indecency in the society and it is here. It's inescapable," said Beadle as he pointed to the indiscipline of taxi operators in the town.
Willowgate Plaza has become overrun by taxi drivers who ignore the municipal parking lot provided, and instead stop anywhere in the town for passengers.
The young businessman said with more than 20 plazas now in the town, more and more traffic, vehicular and pedestrian, fight for the same space in the small town, and congestion is chronic, especially at peak hours.