Judging from the teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing of the past week, the authorities have lost control of the transport centre at Half-Way Tree, in Kingston, a hub for the Government's Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC). Officials, however, are about to launch an offensive to rout the vulgarians.
Only this case, the hordes are mainly students, in school uniform, who flock the facility each day, engaging in antisocial behaviour. So bad it has become that in the past week principals have sent scouts out to round up errant charges. Further, adult commuters are chased away, to the detriment of the finances of the loss-making JUTC.
"This (the behaviour of students) has been hampering our services and causing us to lose a lot of money," complained Colin Campbell, the bus company's recently appointed CEO.
Mr Campbell, being new on the job, may personally be extricated from blame, but the situation at the transport centre speaks as much about the ineptitude of management as a diminishing of values and attitudes and respect for public spaces among young people.
It also probably tells us something about weaknesses in our logistic capabilities, which may be worth noting if the Government intends to press ahead with its policy to develop Jamaica as the logistics hub for the region.
That the transport centre has festering problems with decency and security is nothing new. On October 17, 2010, this newspaper highlighted the overflowing cauldron of chaos that characterised the bus centre.
Then, Mitchell McLean, an Island Special Constabulary Force cop stationed there, said, "[The students] rob, steal, kiss, and, if you take your eye off of them, they have sex in the bathroom."
He also reported that the "extortionists-in-training" target young students. "The adults are actually afraid to come in here. Ah dem (students) own it," McLean said in 2010.
Three years later, the soundtrack of misery plays on.
It seemed not to have bothered anybody that, as Mr Campbell claims, many adult commuters prefer to board public buses outside the centre, or transfer valuable revenue to private transport operators.
That was in spite of the fact that for the current fiscal year, the JUTC, despite the projection that it will halve the deficit, is expected to return an operating loss of more than J$1.4 billion. This will be embraced by taxpayers, adding to the more than J$4.6 billion they had to hug up for the preceding two years. Plugging the avenues of leakage of income we would have expected to be a matter of concentration for the company's bosses. But the failures are not only the JUTC's.
THE IDEAL HANG-OUT SPOT
In a city with few easily accessible recreational facilities, it is not surprising that students/young people would use the centre as a hang-out spot, or that some would misbehave - even to the extreme. The issue, then, is how, and when, those in charge respond.
The transport centre is managed by the Port Authority of Jamaica. The Port Security Corps provides security for the more than 35,000-square-metre facility. It is covered by security cameras, and guards patrol the premises.
It ought not to be particularly difficult for competent and trained security personnel and police, without being overly intrusive, to maintain a level of discipline and order in the facility.
That, however, requires establishing the appropriate protocols and enforcing them. For there to be public buy-in, that process can't be ad hoc. It must be certain and predictable. Emancipation Park may provide a useful template.
The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.