‘People are scared’
Custos of Westmoreland laments state of crime in the parish
Custos Rotolorum of Westmoreland Hartley Perrin has bemoaned the level of fear that is gripping residents of the crime-torn parish.
“We are here, and we fraid like hell, when I leave here to go where I live I am going to be looking over my shoulder, because I do not know what to expect as I move through the parish of Westmoreland, people are scared, “ he emphasised.
He was delivering the welcome at a face-to-face community meeting staged by the Ministry of National Security at the Manning’s School on Thursday, with portfolio minister Dr Horace Chang.
Westmoreland has grabbed the spotlight in recent years with a sharp increase in the number of killings, placing it in the top-five parishes in Jamaica with the highest incidents of murders for 2021. Since the start of the year, seven persons have been killed in the parish.
“We cannot continue like this, every day that we get up we are wondering what other news that we are going to hear that will alarm us. If single murders were not enough, then we are gone to double murders; if killing men was not enough, then we have gone to killing women and as a nation, we cannot continue on this path,” he argued.
Perrin appealed to Chang for measures to be put in place urgently to curtail the level of criminal activity taking place across the parish. He insisted that the country has tools at its disposal, noting that it should apply those measures to reduce the number of violent crimes, particularly murders in the country.
President of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce Moses Chybar, who chaired the meeting, highlighted that crime was not the only issue in Westmoreland, but noted that it has surpassed all other challenges facing the parish.
He argued that most people in the parish have been impacted by violence directly or indirectly, noting that residents either knew a victim or were related to those affected.
Address underlying problems
In an interview with The Gleaner, Chybar said that while he was satisfied with the announcements made surrounding infrastructural and personnel improvements earmarked for the parish, there were still other matters to be addressed to properly rid the parish of its crime problem.
“The economic side of the situation is yet to be addressed, because no matter how much more police officers we bring into the system, that in itself is not a solution, we have to be proactive, which means we have to address the underlying socio-economic problems,” he said.
He argued that the Westmoreland community remains impatient for a holistic attempt at solving the problem.
In his meeting with stakeholders, Chang pointed out that there were four major gangs that operate out of Savanna-la-Mar. Chang said that these gangs were responsible for many of the crimes being committed in various communities.
In outlining the Government’s response to the cries for a solution to the crime problem in that parish, the national security minister, who is also the deputy prime minister, said there would be short-term and medium-to long-term responses to the problem.
“We recognise the Westmoreland challenge, we are doing work and other things will be done, so far in the short term we will be sending 47 police officers here and we have since sent several special operations teams,” he noted.
“In addition to that, we have designed and it has gone to tender, to build a new police station headquartered in Llandilo… in addition to that I should be here within a few weeks to break ground for the Little London Police Station, and we are also putting in a new station at Frome,” he said.
Arguing that there was an increasing propensity for Jamaicans to use violence to settle matters, he said that the new design and concept being developed for police stations to be built would present an atmosphere for more interaction to take place between the police and members of the community.
Chang noted that Westmoreland is set to benefit from other improvements being instituted nationally, such as the digitisation of all police stations by the end of this financial year, and the provision of various equipment along with motor vehicles, among other things, aimed at building the capacity of the police.