Mount Salem churches fight to counter crime situation
Christopher Thomas, Gleaner Writer
With the police working hard to put a lid on the fearsome crime situation in Mount Salem, St James, church leaders in the community are throwing their support behind the effort through special outreach programmes aimed at reducing crime and restoring peace.
Pastor Maurice Chambers, of the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists which is based in Mount Salem, said his denomination is on a mission to forge good relations with residents of the community.
"We have forged a relationship with the Mount Salem Primary and Junior High School, where we have a mentorship programme," said Chambers. "We feed approximately 60 students from the school, and give them breakfast once per week.
"For the wider community, we have been working closely in doing street marches ... even last Sabbath (Saturday), we went into the community, we walked through, we prayed, and we told people about Jesus. We had a gathering where we had two presentations, one of which was from the Ministry of Health," Chambers added. "We also have a feeding programme in the community, and, for this one, we work closely with the conference, where we go to distribute food in the community."
Pastor Victor Wheatley, of the Mount Salem Open Bible Church, told The Gleaner that his church does regular prayer-walks through the community and also focuses on skills-training initiatives for residents.
"From last year, we have been doing prayer-walks in the community, and we have gone to the various areas and had open-air meetings," said Wheatley. "That is our main drive ... to try and curtail crime in the area by going out and ministering to them ... and we have had two weeks of prayer and fasting."
"We have a feeding programme, which we have done to help the social conditions," said Wheatley.
As part of efforts by the Jamaica Constabulary Force to bolster relations with residents in Mount Salem, last week Thursday, high-ranking members of the Area One Police Division conducted a walk-through exercise and community meeting in the area.
During the community meeting, acting chief executive officer of the Cornwall Regional Hospital, Anthony Smikle, urged residents to help reduce crime in their community, as according to him, violent crime is straining the resources of the health sector.
Since the start of 2015, the police in St James have recorded 10 murders in the division, with two of those having taken place in Mount Salem. Last year, 159 murders were recorded for the parish, with 20 of those murders having occurred in Mount Salem.
According to police statistics, 10 illegal firearms have been seized in the parish since the start of the year, with seven of those having been seized in Mount Salem. Last year, 14 firearms were seized in the community.