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St James cops move to crush gangs

Published:Tuesday | May 10, 2022 | 12:10 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Eron Samuels (left), deputy superintendent in charge of operations, and Vernon Ellis, senior superintendent and commander of the St James Police Division.
Eron Samuels (left), deputy superintendent in charge of operations, and Vernon Ellis, senior superintendent and commander of the St James Police Division.

WESTERN BUREAU: The St James police’s new operations boss, Deputy Superintendent Eron Samuels, has credited the increase in high-intensity searches in the western Jamaica parish for the recent arrests, gun finds, and gang disruption. In...

WESTERN BUREAU:

The St James police’s new operations boss, Deputy Superintendent Eron Samuels, has credited the increase in high-intensity searches in the western Jamaica parish for the recent arrests, gun finds, and gang disruption.

In collaboration with the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), the canine unit, and the Caribbean Search Centre, Samuels, who was deployed to his current role just under a month ago, said that his aim is to implement more police patrols and targeted operations.

“We are targeting the gangs that we believe are causing a lot of the issues that we are facing in the parish; wanted men; and the recovery of illegal firearms,” he told The Gleaner during an interview at the offices of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry last Wednesday.

Thirty gangs are operating in the parish, 19 of which are active and are to blame for the worrying levels of murder, which declined by more than 50 per cent in the month of April. But the west, broadly, is of concern for Police Commissioner Antony Anderson, who has targeted that area for special operations.

Samuels, who was accompanied by Senior Superintendent Vernon Ellis, the divisional commander; Deputy Superintendent Angella McIntosh-Gayle; and parish crime chief, Deputy Superintendent Clive Wright, revealed that the operations commenced before his arrival but that he is targeting better results.

Ellis said the surge operations did the parish well as there was evidence of a reduction in all areas of crime, compared to March.

Approximately 100 people were arrested in April, 79 of whom were charged for various offences, including drug and money seizures.

“When you disarm gangs, pretty much that is a success. That is inroads. For this year alone, we recovered well over 50 illegal guns and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition,” Ellis told The Gleaner.

Tired of criminals

That development was on the heels of the parish leading the country with 160 seizures of illegal guns in 2021.

The police commander said that the renewed assault on criminal gangs is challenging their leaders, reversing the impunity with which they operated in 2016 and 2017.

“The statistics themselves are showing some significant changes, and I can say just from the illegal firearms that we are removing from the streets, out of the hands of the gangsters, and they are being sent to prison,” Ellis said.

The senior superintendent lauded citizens for their role in crime-solving, noting that frustrated communities were tired of criminals and want to see reform.

Samuels said the weapon finds were disrupting gangs in St James.

“We are taking over the routes that these gangs usually traverse. A lot of times they try to evade us, and in evading us, they fumble and lose the weapons and we end up finding them,” he said.

The new operations chief has also been the force behind a fresh campaign to impose order on a disorganised downtown Montego Bay.

A joint operation with the St James Municipal Corporation, the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch, and the Island Traffic Authority led to the ticketing of 360 people for various traffic violations recently. More than 80 licence plates were seized.

Samuels has put vendors on alert that there will be planned public-order campaigns monthly.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com