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'We will never cede our town to criminals'

Published:Monday | March 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke
Custos Rotulorum for Manchester Sally Porteous.

Sally Porteous, the custos rotulorum for Manchester, says business leaders in Mandeville remain resolute in the face of last week's brazen attempt by criminals to extort businesses in that town.

She said the lawlessness of those who planned their criminal undertaking is being exposed, and that in spite of the death threats in letters of extortion delivered to a number of businesses, the people of the town were not afraid.

"We will never cede our good town to criminals. We have a strong community. In fact, none of the people who received these letters were afraid. There was no intention to pay extortion money," Porteous said.


Suspects caught on camera


News broke on the weekend that letters outlining an agreement for extortion were being sent to business operators in Mandeville.

The police were quickly on to the perpetrators and have picked up three men said to be involved, after they were seen on the town's closed-circuit camera system. Acting Commissioner of Police Novelette Grant confirmed yesterday that four persons, including a 60-year-old woman, have been arrested in connection with this extortion racket.

Letters outlining payment and demanding approval signatures were being delivered on Friday.

"I just want to thank the police, who were on to them very quickly. I am even more delighted that they have held persons who it seems are involved," Porteous said.

"What makes this so outrageous is that it's believed that the mastermind behind all this is a woman," she added.

... Former mayor calls for draconian measures

Meanwhile, a former mayor of Mandeville has called for draconian measures to help crush a flourishing criminal network across Jamaica.

"Perhaps there has to be a curtailing of some people's rights in order to help bring the crime situation under control," said Brenda Ramsay.

According to Ramsay, with an evolving criminal landscape and new technologies, the police are having to play catch-up with the underworld.

Her recommendation is for a review of some criminal laws to tighten them and to strengthen others which are not seen as stringent enough.

"The criminals are not afraid anymore. The punishment must fit the crime," she said, "and while this attempt at extortion is a rehash of previous attempts, it is no comfort in thinking these people are always masterminding attacks on the peaceful, law-abiding people of this country," said Ramsay.

The police, in the meantime, have issued a statement claiming success of in Operation Clean Sweep at the weekend. This operation, among other things, focuses on apprehending extortionists and wanted men. The lawmen said that they heightened operational activities in the St Catherine North and Clarendon divisions on Saturday.