Business watch plan activated in response to robberies in Portmore
THE ST Catherine South Police will be deploying quick response teams to widen their coverage as part of their business watch plan aimed at arresting the dangerous, daring, and deadly robberies recently experienced in the Portmore municipality.
That, and a surgical approach focused on disrupting 18 gangs now operating in St Catherine, were unveiled as prime executions by head of the St Catherine South Police, Senior Superintendent Christopher Phillips, during a meeting with leading executives of financial institutions, business leaders, and other stakeholders at the 100-man police headquarters yesterday.
“We went for three hours, and most of the discussions were centred around the programme. The response from the business community is overwhelming,” Phillips said.
The plan was devised after two recent multimillion-dollar robberies by heavily armed gunmen, who successfully overpowered Beryllium private security cash transit vehicles delivering money to JN and Scotiabank ATMs within.
One security guard was killed and two others injured in the first robbery on Monday, February 27, at Portmore Pines Plaza, St Catherine. The robbers escaped with more than $10 million.
Then on Sunday around noon, robbers struck again in the same area, close to 200 metres away, at the Scotiabank branch, where they shot four persons, three security guards, and a licensed firearm holder who joined the gunfight against the robbers. They made off with more than $23 million.
According to reports, over 150 spent shells were recovered at the scene, which has multiple ABMs. At the time when the robbers struck, having laid in wait for the Beryllium security who had come to replenish the machines, many persons were in line and lucky to have escaped unhurt.
Both incidents spiked concerns and an atmosphere of fear among residents of the normally peaceful and quiet neighbourhood in not only Portmore Pines, but the wider areas of Portmore, Greater Portmore, and the business community.
PLANS TO IMPROVE SAFETY
In line with their plan, Phillips disclosed that police zoning of the business and financial corridors, and communities, has already started, and their lead team has been convening meetings with business leaders and their security partners to improve safety.
“We are also getting into more community engagement as a part of the strategy to encourage community participation and allow communities to see how crime impacts their lives,” he said.
The business watch plan will also focus on the installation of CCTV cameras with facial recognition and licence plate reader features at points of entry and exit to Portmore.
Mayor of Portmore, Leon Thomas, pledged $500,000 towards the purchase of cameras, and Waterford councillor and businessman Fenley Douglas pledged $100,000.
Norman Walker, president of the Portmore Chamber of Commerce, said that the business community welcomed the initiative and requested that the Chamber be given the task of maintaining the CCTV cameras.
“We've recognised that organised crime seems to be settling in, and we really have to find a way to keep ahead of this scourge,” said Walker.
“I proposed the mayor to allow the Chamber of Commerce to manage this effort where we can be the coordinator. The business community is running scared because we are not accustomed to this kind of violence,” he added, noting that the multi-dimensional approach to crime fighting would help the business community if the initiatives proposed by the police are implemented.
Meanwhile, businessman Douglas said what Portmore needs is a crime plan that caters to Portmore.
“Included in this plan should be the ability of the police to close all the entry and exit points as quickly as possible,”he said.
Douglas said the police does not have enough boots on the ground to response simultaneously to cover all the spaces. He highlighted the need for a telephone line to be placed in a central location from which calls from residents can be transferred to the outstation they wish to be connected to.