Car thieves running wild in Portmore
Car thieves are running rampant in Portmore in St Catherine, and homes, malls, and make-do parking spots outside the Portmore Tax Office on Braeton Parkway seem to be their preferred hunting grounds.
It is a worrying reality that has forced police in the division to employ overt and covert means to clamp down on the seemingly high-tech crooks, who reportedly dress to fit the context of their heists. Their technology also seems to override vehicles with sophisticated security systems.
Head of the division, Superintendent Christopher Phillips, also believes bandits operating in the Portmore Pines area may be part of a vibrant inter-divisional car-stealing ring, and that tax office customers are prime targets.
Fifty-six of the 134 vehicles stolen in Portmore this year were from the Braeton Parkway in or around Portmore Pines, he explained.
“We have an issue with car theft across the division but more so along that Portmore Pines area, the Sovereign Village and outside the tax office,” Phillips told The Sunday Gleaner.
“There is a parking facility at the front (of the tax office) because you know people can’t park on the inside. We are seeing quite a number of cases from there.”
It doesn’t matter the time of day, he said, and the crooks, who often drive the stolen cars into other police divisions, make the best of heavy business days when the malls and tax office are crowded.
There have been a few breakthroughs and arrests, said the superintendent, “and sometimes when we recover those vehicles there are no visible signs of forced entry”.
NOT A BIG PROBLEM
Last week, however, Tax Administration Jamaica in Portmore downplayed the seriousness of the situation as outlined by the police.
“We are aware of a few incidents of motor vehicles being stolen in the vicinity of the Portmore Tax Office; however, we cannot confirm that the majority of the motor vehicles stolen in the municipality comes from in front of the tax office,” stated TAJ’s Chief Corporate Communications Officer Meris Haughton.
“We are not aware of this being a problem at any of our locations. We have, however, been advised of one such incident occurring outside of our Spanish Town Tax Office. No such incidents have been reported at our Kingston Revenue Service Centre,” she explained, adding that cops maintain a presence outside the Portmore Tax Office during peak hours.
Haughton added, “Tax Administration Jamaica regularly reviews security arrangements for all its locations. Security arrangements have increased at most locations, particularly to assist in the management of crowds and to maintain the COVID-19 prevention protocols.”
A different picture, one more in tune with police reports, was painted by vendors in front of the tax office and store owners in the Sovereign Village in Portmore last week. They say motorists need to be more wary of where they park.
“All the while you hear people come out here and start bawl that dem car gone. It’s a regular thing,” said the tax office vendor. “I don’t know what kind of thing the man dem using because it is like it doesn’t even matter the security that is on your car; them still gone wid it.
“Then they (owners) come and ask if I see this or see that. But we not paying attention to that. If they ask to keep an eye, that would be a different thing. But some believe they going to have to spend a money and support we afterwards and they don’t want that,” he said.
Superintendent Phillips said he has implemented a cross-division investigative team and investigations will be far-reaching.
“From our walk-through observing the commercial district, we’ve gathered that a lot of persons are observing these criminals but are not coming forward to talk to the police,” he said.
Twenty-four of the vehicles stolen so far this year were taken from the Waterford Police area; 18 from Bridgeport police jurisdiction; the Caymanas Police and Hellshire Police recorded four and two cases, respectively.
Also in the division: Old Harbour, Old Harbour Bay and Central Village accounted for 26, one and 13, respectively, of the vehicles stolen since January.