Clarendon cops draw for old weapon in crime fight: prayer
Corporal Conrad Martin was inside his office at the May Pen Police Station when another cop alerted him to a young man who wanted to talk with a counsellor.
Martin, a peer counsellor assigned to the Clarendon Police Division, is one of the ‘prayer warrior’ cops who meet virtually every week to seek divine intervention in the mid-island parish that has been overrun by violent criminals who have left a trail of blood and tears in their wake.
The young man was carrying a bag when he entered the station, recounted Martin, who is also an assistant pastor at Penrith Full Gospel Pentecostal Church in Cross Roads, St Andrew.
Before the respected police corporal could introduce himself, his visitor already knew who he was.
“He mentioned the weekly prayer and fasting and said another friend told him about it and that he was fascinated to see police pray,” Martin told The Sunday Gleaner in a recent interview.
Moments later, he said the man broke down in tears as he reached into the bag and pulled out a .380 pistol he wanted to turn over to the police.
Martin, who has been a peer counsellor in Clarendon for nine years, revealed that tears filled his eyes as he consoled and prayed with the weeping young man.
“He said, ‘Mr Martin, I can point you to a place where you can find a lot more guns,’” the cop said, confirming that police investigators subsequently seized a large cache of guns and ammunition in a series of operations.
It is just one of several indicators that have cops in the police’s Area Three sector – which comprises Clarendon, Manchester, and St Elizabeth – believing that the combination of divine intervention and sound policing strategies has proven to be a winning formula across the tri-parish region.
The convergence of Christian crusaders and anti-crime campaigners is not unfamiliar in the deeply religious heartland of Jamaica – where the pulse of Bible-thumping zealotry beats just as hard as that of flint-faced gunmen in gang enclaves. And no one, perhaps, embodies hard policing and religious crusading more than lay preacher and Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey, who helms the crime portfolio.
Martin declined to discuss the case in detail, citing security concerns, but believes that hearts and minds in hotspot communities, mainly in Clarendon, but also in the wider region, are being transformed.
“You have [Clarendon] communities like Canaan Heights, Farm, Effortville, Savanna Heights, Bucknor … . We pray and we ask God to intervene, and we have seen changes,” he asserted.
Eleven murders were recorded in Clarendon between January 1 and March 20 this year, a 50 per cent year-on-year decline, according to police statistics. Shootings also declined by 47.1 per cent, from 17 to 9.
St Elizabeth recorded eight homicides, one more than the seven registered for the period in 2021. Shootings in the parish were on par with the four carried out for the first 79 days in 2021.
Manchester had 10 murders, 66.7 per cent more than the six recorded up to March 20 a year ago. Shootings were also on the rise, by 140 per cent year-on-year, jumping from five in 2021 to 12 this year.
Nationally, Jamaica recorded 320 murders between January and March 20, the police have reported. This is five per cent lower than the comparative period last year.
Assistant Commissioner Michael Smith, the Area Three commander who instituted the weekly lunch-hour prayer sessions, is convinced that spiritual intervention can help to stem the wave of crime.
“Faith and works is a winning combination for anything,” said Smith, a devout Christian and lay preacher.
“We use a faith-based approach whilst we carry out our responsibilities to meet the strategic objectives of the organisation,” he said, referring to the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
It is an approach Smith wants to see replicated throughout the force.
“Once the human mind and emotion is affected in a spiritual way, then you will have transformation,” he reasoned.
The marginal respite in killings, primarily across Clarendon, is a far cry from the bloodletting and mayhem that greeted Smith in March 2020 when he took the reins as the top cop in the Area Three.
The Clarendon police recorded 117 murders the previous year, making it the third-deadliest among the 19 police divisions. Gangsters were killing their cronies and innocent citizens in brazen daylight attacks.
By the end of the first quarter in 2020, police statistics show that 56 more people had been murdered across the central Jamaica parish.
“Immediately, I began reviewing what was happening, and that was one of the things that jumped out at me when I looked at the amount of people who were killed within the three months,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.
“Murders were to the point where we had to have several meetings with the divisional commanders and we put some strategies in place.”
Another glaring issue, he said, was the absence of any “spirituality” in the crime-fighting solutions being discussed.
Smith said it was while contemplating the enormity of the task that God spoke to him in September 2020 about convening a midday prayer meeting for the men and women under his command.
“I was meditating on what I could do differently in the area. I looked at all the strategies we were using and said there has to be another way,” he recalled.
“Then I realised that some spirituality was lacking in the space, and the Holy Spirit just said to me that I have to start a midday prayer.”
The Reverend Godfrey Watson, another founding member of the prayer group, believes that seeking divine intervention is one of the best moves any law enforcement personnel could make.
“I believe the message is getting out there, and already, we are seeing the impact,” Watson said.