Downtown despair - Cops walk among potential victims as robbers wreak havoc

Published: Tuesday | December 31, 2013 Comments 0
Another section of the busy Princess Street.
Another section of the busy Princess Street.
A man walks away from the main entrance of the Kingston Public Hospital on Princess Street where nurses and vendors have been robbed on several occasions over the past two weeks. - photos by Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
A man walks away from the main entrance of the Kingston Public Hospital on Princess Street where nurses and vendors have been robbed on several occasions over the past two weeks. - photos by Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

A massive police operation has been under way in the commercial district of downtown Kingston as rampaging criminals carry out their promise to hold up and rob the very people who care for them whenever they wound each other - nurses, ward assistants and porters at the Kingston Public (KPH) and Victoria Jubilee (VJH) hospitals.

Not only are the hospital workers now at the mercy of well-armed boys, who police say are between 11 and 17, but vendors and buyers, including the elderly, are being held up and robbed at any hour of the day.

Crime-fighters say they are ending 2013 with a covert operation, involving a number of high-profile plain-clothes officers who have been milling among sellers and buyers to nab men from West Street, Matthews Lane, Luke Lane and other sections of west Kingston.

Special Sergeant Christopher Smith said the police have had some success, but there is much more to be done to put a dent in criminality in the area.

"They are coming in numbers same way, them not easing down," Smith said.

He complained that the victims, including nurses and others, have not been reporting incidents, which would enable the police to be more effective.

Late yesterday, Health Minister Fenton Ferguson met with the Police High Command, which was represented by Assistant Commissioner Winchroy Budhoo, head of Mobile Reserve, at the KPH.

Ferguson, who was accompanied by chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) Lyttleton 'Tanny' Shirley, has promised to review the overall security arrangements with a view of strengthening areas in need of attention.

At the meeting attended by representatives of the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ), the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA) and the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ), Budhoo gave a commitment to beef up security on the ground of the KPH and the VJH, even as he emphasised the need for persons to pay attention to their own security by being more aware.

Budhoo suggested that, from reports received, most of the problems arose from people speaking on cellular phones while walking.

A nurse told The Gleaner that her colleagues had been warned that they would have been singled out by the thieves.

"We were warned that the men from behind the hospital said they would be targeting nurses as "nothing nah gwaan fe de Christmus," one nurse told The Gleaner.

"A growing number of us have been held up and it doesn't matter that we walk in groups; they are not afraid of anything," said the nurse.

'Jasper' and 'Tupac' are two of the names of scores of young men who Smith, a feared crime-fighter in the Kingston Western Division, said were on the police radar.

"Enough is enough," declared Smith. "We can't have our nurses and hospital workers who take care of us being subjected to such trauma."

Smith revealed that the police were also searching for a well-known man in the Luke Lane community who led a group of men who, on Christmas Eve, moved through vendors stalls, selected and confiscated choice clothing, as persons helplessly looked on.

He said an 11-year-old boy was caught breaking into a motor car at one of the KFC outlets in the busy commercial centre.

In another incident, Smith said he was among a group of plain-clothes policemen in the market zone of Oxford Street, when he heard someone bellow, "nobody move".

He said when he looked in the direction of the command, he saw three armed men.

The police challenged the men and, at the end of the confrontation, one of the thugs from Lizard Town was killed and the other two escaped in different directions.

"The area was crowded and we did not want to risk any lives," said Smith.

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