#LIGHTONVIOLENCE | Hanover determined to fight criminal elements
While extortion is not a major problem in western Jamaica, overall security remains a significant challenge in places like Hanover, where the high incidence of crime, especially murders, is driving fear into the business community.
"Extortion on the western side of the country is not as high or not as serious an issue as in the Corporate Area, but there are instances where gang members will attempt to extort business owners," said Superintendent Kirk Ricketts, of the Area One Police headquarters, while speaking at Wednesday night's Gleaner Light on Violence Special Crime Forum at the Global Villas in Hanover.
According to Nerris Hawthorne, who chairs the Lucea Development Limited, many business operators have been forced to alter their opening hours as the crime situation in the parish has become so frightening that many persons are fearful of venturing out of their homes at night.
"You can imagine persons who used to keep their businesses open late night, now they have to close early," said Hawthorne. "Nobody is coming out because there is so much fear, therefore, business is getting very slow, especially in the deep rural areas. Everyone is going to bed early. Nobody wants to be on the street because it is not safe. The business people are really feeling it."
While cognisant of the fear gripping the business community, especially against the background of the fact that Hanover has seen some 31 murders since the start of the year, which is more than twice the number of murders over the corresponding period last year, Ricketts said the police enjoy a fairly good relationship with the business community.
"At the area level, we do have a decent relationship with our business operators, but there are always ways that we can improve," he said.
However, amid the challenges she outlined, Hawthorne believes that despite the difficult working environment in Hanover, the police are trying their best. She is urging the full cooperation of the citizens.
"The police cannot do it alone. They need the support of the citizens," said Hawthorne. "We need to tackle this problem in a united way, so I am urging the cooperation of all law-abiding citizens."
Deputy Superintendent of Police Sharon Beeput, the commanding officer for the Hanover Police Division, said the police stand ready to support the business community. She urged operators to seek help if they need it.
"Our duty is to create a safe environment for the citizens of this parish, so we are ready to work with the business community," said Beeput. "We will not allow criminals to drive law-abiding citizens out of business."