Brazen attacks heating up crime hotspots
Significant reduction in major crimes little comfort to some who fear criminals no longer have boundaries
Even with a reported significant reduction in major crimes, the increasing brazenness of criminals carrying out daring daylight attacks in public spaces has forced the Police High Command to get tougher on its stance on lawlessness. “Let me make it...
Even with a reported significant reduction in major crimes, the increasing brazenness of criminals carrying out daring daylight attacks in public spaces has forced the Police High Command to get tougher on its stance on lawlessness.
“Let me make it clear. Those persons who believe they can commit these acts, firing their weapons in public spaces without any concern for people, operating like terrorists, will be found. We will find you and you will face the full force of the law,” Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson said last week at the Jamaica Constabulary (JCF) quarterly press briefing.
Up to March 31, there were 303 murders compared to 383 for the similar period last year, and there were 254 shootings compared to 291 for last year’s corresponding period. There were 168 robberies compared to 248 for the similar period last year, while 215 break-ins have been reported this year compared to 245 for the corresponding period last year. Seventy-two rapes were reported up to March 31, compared to 137 for the similar period last year.
But for some Jamaicans, the data offer little comfort, as they are gripped with fear by the daring daylight attacks at ATMs, gas stations, schools, health centres, restaurants, wholesales, stoplights, churches, police stations, funerals and weddings, making, as one resident put it, “nowhere no safe anymore”.
According to data from the Mona GeoInformatics Institute (MGI) at The University of the West Indies, the parishes of St James, Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine continue to have the highest crime rate. Montego Bay, Portmore, Spanish Town, Half-Way Tree, Mandeville and May Pen are labelled as the leading crime hotspots.
Using crime stats from the constabulary which compiles data on major crimes across the island’s 19 police divisions, MGI consistently maps crime hotspots across Jamaica, studying the trends over the years, with the aim to aid in the country’s crime-fighting efforts.
The latest MGI mapping, which is based on a 26-month period from January 2021 to February 2023, captures some 16,000 crimes committed, ranging from larceny to murder.
During the period, crime has fluctuated in certain areas, in particular those that were placed under enhanced security measures by the government.
According to geologist and former director of MGI, Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr, the data show the natural organic pattern of all crimes, with a concentration in the urban areas.
He noted that the level of crime is measured by population and activities in those urban areas, so the larger the area, the more intense the crime. There is also a correlation, he said, with the social makeup of those communities, such as poverty, education and infrastructure like dilapidated buildings or lack of sanitation.
“But you have to be careful. Some rural areas are poor with low education levels, but don’t have crime. And reductions in crime in certain areas don’t necessarily improve physical conditions, so crime can go right back up,” Dr Lyew-Ayee Jr told The Sunday Gleaner last week.
Luke Buchanan, senior projects manager at MGI, noted that in spite of reports of daring daylight attacks, their findings reveal that most crimes are committed in the evening.
“We see peaks at around 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., followed by a little earlier in prime time, about 7:00 p.m. Predawn is the lowest crime period,” Buchanan said.
MGI’s data, Dr Lyew-Ayee Jr said, aids with prioritising areas for intervention and benchmarking key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring success factors.
“These can range from ZOSOs to community improvement or social programmes that address root causes, but these need to be focused. That’s how maps like what we generate help,” he said.
Buchanan added, “The data or having an idea is good for people to know what is going on in their community or other communities in terms of crime patterns.”
A QUANTITATIVE PROBE INTO VIOLENT CRIME
The Northern Caribbean University (NCU) has also been doing research on the impact of crime on the nation, and charting a pattern.
In the report titled ‘A Quantitative Probe into Violent Crime Committed in Jamaica from 2010 to 2022’, the researchers found that the majority of the 56,456 “selected violent crimes” were robberies (41.1 per cent or 23,218); murders (29.9 per cent or 16,906); and shootings (28.9 per cent or 16, 332).
The high crime areas were found to be St Andrew (23.3 per cent or 13,169); St Catherine (18.8 per cent or 10,615); Kingston (12.2 per cent or 6,901); and St James (10.8 per cent or 6,102).
Conducted by Paul Bourne, acting director of Institutional Research at NCU; Dennis Brooks, senior communication consultant, JCF; and Vivienne Quarrie, associate professor, NCU, not all crimes were detailed in the research. However, of the selected violent crimes examined, 99.85 per cent provided locations. The researchers noted that the majority were committed on the roadways (49.9 per cent); in and around dwelling (14.6 per cent) and 6.4 per cent on premises. Public spaces accounted for 3,216 incidents.
‘STOP GI WEY DEM LIFE’
Recording artiste Akeem ‘Prince Ikeem’ Bogle told The Sunday Gleaner last week that he was still reeling from the pain of losing his 10-year-old son, Jaheim Bogle, to the crime monster. The child was fatally shot in the head while riding his bicycle in Arnett Gardens, St Andrew, on July 16, 2021.
According to reports, heavily armed thugs drove into the area and opened fire indiscriminately, snuffing out the life of Jaheim, who was described as smart and jovial.
“Every time I speak on it, it lick mi chip. It come in like the shooter didn’t know who was dem target. I see the crime taking place and wonder what has Jamaica become. After my son, is a lot more children get caught ina da same thing deh. Mi would love the youth dem fi just put some positiveness to their actions and stop give wey dem life,” Bogle said.
He recorded a tribute song Lil Fya Fighter to his son with an accompanying music video re-enacting how Jaheim was killed in his usually safe space.
Another resident of the tough St Andrew community told The Sunday Gleaner that the only safe spaces probably left in Jamaica were the “House of Parliament and the United States Embassy”.
Last Tuesday, a man identified as Oto Anthony Carick was shot and killed at the entrance to the Meadowbrook Prep School in St Andrew, after he went to pick up his stepchild.
A week earlier, on March 29, 34-year-old taxi operator Nicholas Scott of a Lincoln Crescent address was shot dead in full view of others at the Texaco gas station at the intersection of Molynes and Waltham Park roads.
That murder was one of several committed at gas stations in the past months, adding to the 26 which reportedly occurred between 2000 and last year.
On February 24, Kevin Grant, a mechanic of Denary Road, was murdered as he and a woman from the Cayman Islands address drove up to the Total gas station along Washington Boulevard.
A female pump attendant, Chevelle Lewis, 31, was also killed on August 29, 2022, at the Fesco gas station in Portmore.
The Total gas station at the Molynes and Red Hills roads intersection has also had its share of vicious murders.
Two men were killed there on November 22, 2021, and in less than two weeks, on December 2, 2021, there was another murder at the same location.
UNIQUE CHALLENGES IN EACH DIVISION
Each police division has its own unique challenges and Superintendent Eron Samuels, acting commander for St James, told The Sunday Gleaner that gang warfare and conflicts in places such as Tucker, Flankers, Barrett Town, Salt Spring, Cambridge, Anchovy and the town centre make them crime hotspots in the parish.
“These areas have active gang war and violence. Norwood is also hot but because of the ZOSO crime is down. In the town centre, even though we have police officers there, in particular areas off the main like Railway Lane and Barrett Lane, we also have incidents,” SP Samuels said.
SP Samuels, who was initially brought into the division a little over a year ago to coordinate operations, said the police are targeting the conflicts as they did in the G-City (MoBay Gang) case, with consistent focus on the main violence producers.
“We constantly assess and use intelligence to determine where to put resources in order to reduce the opportunities for these incidents to take place,” SP Samuels said.
He pointed to successes in the first quarter of 2023, with the seizure of 111 illegal firearms, and the 42 per cent decline in murders, compared to last year, in the western parish.
“We believe that our reliance on community policing initiatives backed by our strong operational presence has been bearing fruit and our intention is to, along with partners, enhance and build on what we are doing,” SP Samuels said.
‘THE PLACE FEELS LESS SAFE’
Residents in some of the crime hotspots The Sunday Gleaner visited last week said that despite the reported reduction in murder and other serious crimes, they still do not feel safe and at times feel vulnerable to criminals.
“The place feels less safe. We see the things on social media and nuff people can’t be found. Murder and crime take place anywhere, anytime. Dem say crime down but honestly it nuh feel so to me,” a resident of Olympic Gardens said.
A resident of Spanish Town shared, “Right now people a go for people (target) anywhere. If crime did OK and people feel safe, so much people wouldn’t a run cross the border. Anuh mek we mek up dem thing here. Nowhere no safe anymore. In Manchester last year a ina police station man a report and open fire. People drive ina taxi and get kill for weh dem nuh know bout.”
On Wednesday, taxi operator Orlando McGregor and his passenger Marlene Smith were shot and killed by thugs along Railway Lane in Spanish Town.
Up to press time, The Sunday Gleaner was unable to reach commanding officers for St Catherine South, SSP Christopher Phillips, and St Andrew South, SSP Kirk Ricketts.
Areas under their command are listed as crime hotspots. However, these divisions have recorded a decline in serious crimes, 39.1 per cent and 24.8 per cent, respectively, for the first quarter of 2023 compared to the similar period last year.