Fri | Dec 1, 2023

SOE fuels hope and doubt

Published:Wednesday | November 16, 2022 | 12:14 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
Claudette Johnson says gun violence has hurt the community of Olympic Gardens.
Claudette Johnson says gun violence has hurt the community of Olympic Gardens.
Ronald Hutchinson fears that gunmen will escape the clutches of the SOEs.
Ronald Hutchinson fears that gunmen will escape the clutches of the SOEs.

Residents of Olympic Gardens in the St Andrew South Police Division have welcomed Tuesday’s reimposition of a state of emergency (SOE), contending that the Holness administration’s crime-fighting measure will make them safer.

The measure, which spans Westmoreland, St James, Hanover, St Catherine, Clarendon, and parts of Kingston and St Andrew, will last for 14 days before requiring a vote for its extension.

Claudette Johnson, a 67-year-old resident of Olympic Gardens, believes that the entire island should be under SOEs.

“The state of emergency fi deh a di 14 parish because crime rampant, gunshot a bus and people a dead, a real sinting a nuh nuh joke ting. So who deh inna dem high chair, maybe dem nah feel it because dem nuh inna di ghetto but ghetto people a die,” she said, advocating for the measure to be extended all over the island.

“... Gun a bark too much and too much people a cry and pickney a dead, and innocent people a dead.”

Six people were murdered in the community over a three-day period in early September in what the police said were gang-related incidents.

Johnson is also calling for the Government to expand the footprint of its JamaicaEye surveillance programme with more closed-circuit television cameras in volatile communities.

Ronald Hutchinson, another householder, told The Gleaner that while he was “very appreciative” of the SOE, he is wary that criminals will not be apprehended under the measure.

“When di SOE inna di area, dem (gunmen) find a different area go because dem have dem man inna di area weh will call dem and tell dem bout it,” he said.

But head of St Andrew South, Senior Superintendent Kirk Ricketts, said the police will be targeting known criminals under the SOE.

“We do have the identities of a number of violence producers. We’ll be trying to interdict their activities during this period with our enhanced powers, and we expect that at the end of this SOE, we should see some positive results,” he said in a Gleaner interview.

Ricketts said the police will also be placing special attention on violence-plagued communities. He added that St Andrew South is in “the top four” in terms of the volume of murders and shootings this year.

The division recorded 121 murders as at November 5.

“It is only logical for a state of emergency to be called at St Andrew South. We are constantly being impacted by gang violence. In fact, we have over 35 communities within the division that are currently experiencing gang-type violence,” he said, adding that the division has more than 70 gangs, at least 40 of which are relatively active.

Marcia Beckford of Olympic Way detailed the distress that crime has had on the community, crippling law-abiding citizens with fear and destroying livelihoods.

She is fully supportive of the SOE.

“Once dem have the police and soldier inna di community, that good. People cannot afraid to go up and down,” she said. “When crime a go on, we nuh come out. It affect everything, slow up business, everything, so best when we under control.”

Another resident lamented that the once lively community had been transformed into a ghost town as a result of crime.

“Car drive pass every day wid gunman. We haffi stay in. When you look out yah, you woulda think say nobody nuh live yah,” she said.

The resident, who requested that she not be named, said children and adults were traumatised and spent their days locked inside their houses.

Meanwhile, over on Maxfield Avenue, one resident told The Gleaner that she was not optimistic about the reinstatement of an SOE.

“But I see state of emergency right here and man dead di police foot and him don’t move. Don’t even look,” she said.