‘Living in a movie’ - Harsh murderous reality facing residents of St James
While Montegonians were elated last week that 119 guns destined for the city were intercepted by border patrol agents in the United States, they remained concerned about whether similar shipments might have already entered the island, adding to the armoury of the criminal underworld in St James.
"My concern is, how many other shipments have come in undetected?" said a Granville-based pastor, who asked not to be identified. "Based on what I am seeing in the parish, there seems to be an endless supply of guns and ammunition in the hands of the gangsters."
Since the start of this year, the St James police have seized more than 70 guns, including several high-powered rifles. The cops have also arrested or killed several gangsters during confrontations, including the entire top brass of the deadly Ski Mask gang.
But still the parish remains the island's undisputed murder capital with more than 300 murders, a substantial increase over last year's record 264.
ECONOMIC LIFE UNDER THREAT
With stakeholders, including members of the business, political and religious communities, bemoaning the unprecedented lawlessness in the parish, Montego Bay's Mayor Homer Davis, who is a former cop, has warned that the city's economic life is under threat as the violence is an impediment to investment.
"As a citizen first of Montego Bay and as mayor, I am equally concerned as any citizen of Montego Bay and St James," said Davis, who has sidelined diplomacy in demanding stronger action to quell the violence.
"What we are seeing down here is a type of gangland activities. You only see these things in movies," added Davis.
Based on the latest statistics released by the Jamaica Constabulary Force, St James represents the type of nightmare that local law-enforcement officials could well do without. With an average of five murders per week, the parish accounts for more than 20 per cent of the killings across the entire island since the start of the year.
During a recent tour of sections of the parish, Police Commissioner George Quallo promised more action to reduce the violence.
"It is our intention to change some strategies to redeploy some persons here in an effort to ensure the safety of the citizens in this parish, and to target some of these persons who are causing problems," Quallo told a press conference in the aftermath of his tour.
"So, having had an assessment, we will be looking at additional support going forward," added Quallo.
With the official numbers showing an average of 4.7 murders each week, St James has the unenviable record of being the only one of the 19 police divisions which has reported double-digit killings in a single week since the start of the year.
The parish has recorded double-digit murder numbers in nine of the first 48 weeks of this year, with the situation reaching its peak in the week of November 19 to 25 when 15 persons were killed.
"Di commissioner nuh have a clue ... man a fire shot inna Montego Bay inna broad daylight and don't give a ... about de police," one vendor told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.
"Dem fi empty Up Park Camp and flood MoBay with just soldiers ... dis is war ... yu nuh se how much people a dead," added the vendor, as he bemoaned the state of affairs in the parish which is the only police division in the island yet to have a murder-free week this year.