Wed | Aug 4, 2021

Letter of the Day | Central Kingston is bleeding

Published:Friday | June 18, 2021 | 1:03 AM

The Editor, Madam:

I write to raise concern about the problem of crime and violence and homicides, particularly in Central Kingston.

Zeus* was being cared for by his aunt after his mother died of cancer. She brought him to my office and said, “Pastor, help mi wid him, because him naah listen.” I met with him weekly over a period of two months and thought I was making some progress. One Tuesday afternoon, I got the gut-wrenchingly sad news that he was among a group of friends who were playing with a gun, which accidentally went off and ended his 15-year-old life.

A parent was giving the vote of thanks at one of our basic-school graduation when gunshots brought the upbeat event to an abrupt end. Parents and children screamed, while some sought safety underneath the church benches. I later learnt that the father of one of the basic-school graduands was called out of the ceremony and shot because he wasn’t supposed to cross the ‘border’. We didn’t even get to sing the national anthem!

About 10 minutes before one of our church service began, 12-year-old Brianna* walked to the front of the church and handed me a note. I lifted my thumb and collected the note on top of the clip-on microphone I was affixing my jacket. By the time I opened the note, she was already halfway down the aisle. “Pastor, please pray for my mother. Gunmen shot my mother’s boyfriend four times in front of her.” I froze. These are just a few of the many horrible, violent incidents I can recount in my 11 years of pastoral ministry in central Kingston.

There were 24 murders recorded in central Kingston in 2020. In a recent report, Central Kingston Police Superintedent Mrs Jones-Williams revealed that 33 murders have been recorded so far in 2021 – a 37.5 per cent increase, with a clear-up rate of 68 per cent. The Social Development Commission, in their Parade Gardens Community Priority Plan, has listed unemployment, the effects of crime and violence, inadequate housing, poor parenting, and insufficient green spaces for children to play as key issues for our attention. People are cripplingly fearful of the senseless and evil actions of the Dark Side and Genocide gangs. The downtown Kingston Ministers’ Fraternal is far less vocal than it should be. The business community seems to be looking the other way as it makes its money, and the MP and the Opposition seem to be using the same old playbook.

Central Kingston is a small geographical area! Surely, it cannot be beyond our collective wisdom and ability to appropriately respond to this emergency. I humbly recommend that Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Dr Horace Chang bring the stakeholders together and treat central Kingston as a model case of how a violence-torn community can be transformed. Central Kingston needs a hybrid zone of special operation.

* Names have been change.

Rev Omar J. Morrison, JP