Beware of criminals, Manchester!
THE EDITOR, Sir:
It was supposed to be my best Christmas ever. It would be the first under my own roof among family and loved ones from overseas and here in Jamaica. I planned to cook the traditional curry goat and mannish water, and spread out in my backyard for the fellowship.
Instead, I spent the season thanking God to be alive, with no appetite, and feeling a lot more apprehensive in my surroundings for the first time in my life.
On Christmas Eve, I arrived home in Mt Gerazim, popularly known as Chudleigh Housing Scheme, as I have been doing for Christmases most of my life. I switched off the engine, said my usual prayer of thanks for a safe journey home and checked my phone for calls received during the drive. I pulled out the house keys, opened the gate followed by the door from garage to house, dropped both sets of keys on a sofa and proceeded to unload my car. This was my usual routine.
As I stepped into the garage for the third time, a neatly dressed young man with a gun told me not to move, grabbed my gold necklace and bangle and a second man proceeded to tell me to stop screaming. I was so scared, my first word was "why?", but from some little rational part of my brain I remembered the police saying thieves hate noise. So I began an internal dialogue and continued to scream.
With each scream, I looked at the gun and thought, "it's not loaded", then, "he is going to shoot", then, "if you scream, he will shoot, if you don't scream he can still shoot you, so scream".
As I continued, the second man tried to push me inside saying: "Go inna de house gal and tap you noise." I thought, "house, rape, murder, you better scream louder". I stepped outside and screamed louder, the gunman hit me in my head, and I thought, "Please God, don't let me pass out". I continued to scream and they ran out. I followed them still screaming, "thief, thief!"; and calling out, "help, help, thief!"
They left with my phones and bag with cash and valuables.
No one was around
But no one was around and it all went down very fast. Both immediate neighbours to my left and right were away for the season. The ones across the street were at work and the others either heard too late, were in their backyards or were perhaps too scared to come out. So by the time they emerged, the criminals were gone.
They left in a white Nissan Tiida. In retrospect, that car was behind and in front of me from the roundabout at Williamsfield, could have been before that, but I thought nothing of it because Manchester is the last place I expect something like this to happen.
The car had made two stops up at Mizpah and Walderston and allowed me to pass. I simply thought they were waiting for someone else.
When the Christiana police came, they informed me that cops in the parish had been having a hard time trying to convince 'Manchesterians' that crime has increased in the parish. They said residents in the parish are living with a false sense of security and are not taking the uptick in crime seriously, and the criminals are aware of it and having a field day.
According to one cop, in a seven-day period in mid-December, robbers took eight guns from elderly licensed firearm holders, who were their target because they were not as alert as younger men. Break-ins have also increased, as have attacks against individuals.
In fact, two of the victims are friends of mine. One had been hit with a concrete block and spent time in hospital with serious brain injury; the other was murdered some months ago. I was shocked because, amid reports of south-bound crime statistics, criminal activity was trending upwards rather fast in Manchester (home of Security Minister Peter Bunting's constituency), yet there was no significant alarm from him.
The police have been very helpful. Some of the contents of my bag were found in neighbouring Contrivance and returned last Saturday night, but I will definitely behave as paranoid about security in Manchester as I am in Kingston. The neighbours have been supportive, but I am using this medium to appeal to residents of Manchester to be more alert, even if it means regarding everyone as a suspect.
Mt Gerazim, Manchester