Police confident public partnership can curb St James murder rate
Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU:Despite the fact that St James topped the national homicide count last year and has featured prominently in the spate of crimes that swept the island last month, commanding officer in charge of Area One, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Paul Ferguson, is confident the police-public partnership now being employed can restore order in the hot spots within the parish.
"We are in a crisis in Jamaica because many of you, when night comes, you cannot wait to get into your homes (because) you are afraid of the dark; you are afraid of the murderers, thieves, and rapists that prowl the streets," said Ferguson last Saturday. Our mandate is to continue to recapture the respect, confidence, and the restoration of partnerships because we cannot do it alone.
"We are looking out for our youths, especially in those marginalised communities so that we can direct them in a more proactive and meaningful way," added Ferguson, whose command spans the parishes of Trelawny, St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland.
"Justices of the peace, guidance counsellors, and pastors are being encouraged to be part of the police intervention programme. We are calling on the general church community to do the same."
The ACP made the comment while addressing worshippers at their monthly church service held at the Lilliput Seventh-day Adventist Church in St James. The team of crime fighters present included Derrick Champagnie, senior superintendent for St James, and Linda Green Francis, superintendent for community safety and security for the division.
159 of the 1,005 murders
St James accounted for 159 of the 1,005 murders recorded last year and has kept apace with that trend with 15 homicides being committed since the start of 2015. The police-public partnership has been targeting the marginalised communities with the aim of sensitising the residents about the work of the Jamaica Constabulary Force as well as their role in the fight against crime and violence.
Meetings have already been held in Mount Salem, Montego Hills, Barnett Street, Granville, and Anchovy.
Champagnie expressed confidence in the support from the public during a press conference at the Freeport Police Station recently, which he said was responsible for several persons being arrested and a number of illegal firearms and ammunition seized since the start of the year.
"Since the start of 2015, we would have recovered 13 illegal firearms, 66 rounds of assorted ammunition, six wanted men were arrested, and 31 persons were arrested for serious and violent crimes," he revealed. "This is mainly due to the hard work and commitment of the men and women assigned to the division of St James," he said.
However, despite celebrating the inroads made this year, Champagnie bemoaned the build-up of illegal firearms in the parish.
"Despite our successes as it relates to the recovery of firearms, the proliferation of firearms is a cause for serious concern. I am imploring the citizens and well-thinking Jamaicans to assist the police in recovering illegal firearms," he pleaded.