Mark Wignall | Navigating fears differently
Forty-two-year-old Devon is employed to drive a truck for a Spanish Town-based businessman. Devon lives in a well-known urbanised inner-city pocket where sporadic sounds of gunfire in the nights is normal.
"Few weeks ago, mi use to mek more money a drive a white plate fi a ol' man. Mi coulda mek 20 (thousand dollars) an sometimes more every week but it stressful. Mi neva pay extortion because one a di yute dem live in my lane. But it get a way when late evening an' night come. Mi 'fraid fi pick up certain yute. Dem get vile an' wicked."
Devon is on two weeks' probation. "Right now is $10,000 a week mi a get. Lunch and taxi fare tek half a dat. Di boss seh in two weeks, if everything right, him will step mi up to $15,000."
Apart from a little bar in his lane, Devon is mostly home by 9 p.m. He tells me of an elderly woman living in his lane. "When some a dem boy hear seh police a come, dem dump dem gun inna fi har bedroom ceiling. Di more dem do dat is di more she go a church because she can't do nutten bout it."
DEAD JUSTICE SYSTEM
I am close to a gritty zinc fence area where about two decades ago, a gang snatched a 15-year-old girl, brutally raped her, stabbed her, shot her, then threw her body into a gully. My police friend with me is a senior man with close to 30 years in the Jamaica Constabulary Force. He has very harsh words for the new level of criminality and the justice system.
"Dem guys have no fear. In the latest rotation, is 143 on bail for violent crimes commit murders while on bail. Think of it. Even if wi use a minimum and say that in the last 10 years is 10,000 murders take place, during that same period is about 500 get convicted for murder. Not even 10 per cent getting convicted. The justice system is dead!"
"So, how do you deal with them?" I asked.
"INDECOM is breathing down our backs, and listen, I know that there are bad cops, but trust me, the vast majority just want to do the job they are being paid to do. To serve, protect. And to secure their lives. So we know when they open fire at us we are not going to take it lying down. We are going to respond by using superior force."
HOPE FOR SURVIVAL
Most mornings I drive out quite early. At around 6:30 a.m. During the holiday break the streets at that time of the morning are somewhat bare, but the words from the few gathered at the Chinese stores and bars are the same as the night before.
"My business is one of the few in this area doing well because I sell what the people want: affordable food and snacks. But I sense the anxiety on the faces of my customers. Honestly, I believe we are all going to get over this," said the 58-year-old businessman to me.
"We have greatness in us but we don't know it. That is what will be called on for many of us. We have to survive this and build our nation."
Thirty-eight-year-old Dell operates a small clothing store along a well-known main road thoroughfare. "Mi have ups and downs when it come to business, but every time someone come through di door, a don't know what to expect. If di government don't solve dis ting mi nuh know what is going to happen. Vote out this one, vote in the next and the same thing happen. Is pure confusion."
Most people I speak with are expecting that once the new police operations under the special zones are rolled out, results will be immediately seen. "I have high hopes for the police," said Dell. "They have my full support. Some boy nearly tek whey my daughter inna one taxi months ago. If some a dem haffi dead a so it go."
I ask my unemployed 18-year-old idrin who I see about twice per week, "How yu deal wid the crime ting?" He looks up briefly, lights his spliff and inhales. He smiles. "Mi cool," he says.