St Mary leads murder rate plunge - Cops seek to rebrand Annotto Bay as ‘#A Nicer Bay’
St Mary has emerged as the rural parish and overall police division with the greatest reduction in murder rate, 64 per cent, for the period January 1 to April 6, compared to the corresponding period last year.
Data released by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) show that for the period, St Mary recorded five murders, nine fewer than the 14 that were registered in 2018. The figures reflect an islandwide trend that has seen a reduction of 7.5 per cent in murders.
Last year, a spike in crime in Annotto Bay, one of St Mary’s major townships, saw 13 murders and 10 shootings in that town and propelled murder figures in the parish to the alarming total of 36, a 50 per cent rise year on year.
With the police placing additional focus on the troubled town, including the introduction of the ‘#A Nicer Bay’, a social intervention initiative aimed at crime reduction, this year has seen a dramatic and welcome decrease in murders.
Of the five murders, Annotto Bay has accounted for one, a cautiously optimistic parish commander Superintendent Bobette Morgan-Simpson told The Gleaner on Tuesday.
She credited her team with the reduction, while also praising the business sector, community members, and other entities for their input.
“The reduction is due to our operational activities. We have literally planted ourselves in Annotto Bay,” Morgan-Simpson said.
“We have occupied and have done a lot of work in Annotto Bay,” the commander told The Gleaner yesterday. “We have done a lot of social intervention in communities and in schools, we have partnered with businesses and communities, and earlier this year we had the launch of ‘#A Nicer Bay’.”
In January, the initiator of ‘#A Nicer Bay’, Sergeant Christopher Ward, told The Gleaner that “I’ve done some assessment and realise that we still have good persons here and we can change it if we call the people together. If everyone is on board we believe that this whole bad place, hot zone, blood lane, we can change that into, in fact, a nicer bay.”
Given the current figures, the programme is already bearing fruit – at least for now.
The ‘#A Nicer Bay’ initiative was supported at the launch by several businesses, agencies such as the fire department, HEART Trust/NTA, Social Development Commission, the 4-H Movement, taxi associations in the parish, and other interests.
But Morgan-Simpson underlined the need for more social intervention, acknowledging that a lot of the murders recorded in St Mary in 2018 centred around disputes.
“So we’re doing the meetings in the communities, meeting with the people, trying to target disputes. We want to intervene from early so we don’t have a murder.”
Going forward, Morgan says the strategies that have yielded success so far will remain in place for as long as they work.