Granville needs a ‘complete overhaul’ – Kerr-Jarrett
Residents of Granville in St James are desperate to shake the negative characterisation of their community, but know that celebrating the recent lull in gang violence too early is risky, especially when there are still volatile areas that must be entered at one’s own risk.
“It was not like this when I came to Granville, it was a place that you would want to live, but (lottery) scamming came, and everyone is protecting their turf, so if you have no business here don’t come, but if you choose to venture here, you do so at your own risk,” said a renowned educator in the community. “What startles me is that no big man is involved, it’s mostly young boys between the ages of 16 and 21, even some of my students that I taught are involved in these crimes.”
He added, “Things have been quiet for the past weeks, but we cannot start to celebrate yet because we have been here before. It just takes one to step on another person’s toe then we have to be sleeping on the floor to avoid bullets.”
Granville is located on the outskirts of Montego Bay and is considered the birthplace of the illicit lottery scam in 2006. At the time, Assistant Commission of Police (ACP) in charge of Area One, Denver Frater, warned that the face of criminality would change for the worse if the ‘scammers’ were allowed to become entrenched in the communities.
With their new-found wealth, the scammers had the resources to secure underworld protection and later merged into dangerous criminal enterprises, controlling their communities, and making it difficult for the police to get information.
However, Michael Troupe, the councillor for the Granville division, is adamant that the key players of criminality are no longer in the community.
“Most of the violence producers have been killed, are in police custody or gone overseas,” the veteran local government politician claimed. “I don’t see any problem in the Granville division as it relates to crime; any time crime starts these days, it is mainly family disputes.”
Troupe added, “I have seen great improvement over my years as the political representative. The community has moved from 40 deaths per year to two or three now. The public warning about entering Granville at your own risk does not exist anymore, those days are over.”
However, head of Area One, ACP Clifford Chambers, said the ongoing conflict between the MS-13 and Big Yard gangs continues to be a concern for law enforcement.
“There has been a quietness in the Granville space in the last four to five weeks, which is coming out of an operation between the MS-13 and the Big Yard gangs,” Chambers told The Sunday Gleaner. “The areas of concern are predominantly Chambers Lane, where we have seen about three murders, also Tucker main road, and Gunns Drive.”
The tension intensified with the killing of Shemar Coke, the head of the MS-13 in the Chambers Lane community, recently, and the police have been employing several strategies to prevent a reprisal.
“We have not seen any interruption of his gang,” said Chambers. “So we reach out to the family and give them the kind of support and counselling to negate any form of reprisal from happening.”
The recent $20 million fire damage to the Granville Police Station might have been a blessing in disguise, as this has led to the policemen and women spending more time in the community, causing higher visibility of the security forces throughout the area.
The police are also seeking to forge greater partnerships with residents and key stakeholders as it aims to bring a new look and dispensation to Granville.
“We are trying to get eyes and ears in there throughout the community because the police cannot be in there 24 hours, seven days per week,” Chambers noted. “It is crucial for the community to understand the plight and trust the police by constantly providing information.”
Residents say the gang warfare on Gordon Crescent has divided the loyalty of those living on the horseshoe-shaped roadway.
Police intelligence also revealed that the gangsters continue to fuel their criminal enterprises from the illicit lottery scam, but Troupe, who is known to stand in staunch defence of the volatile community, rubbished the suggestion that scamming continues to flourish in his division.
“I am not saying that Granville wasn’t a hotspot for scamming about 15 years ago, but scamming is now in every part of Jamaica, and is also at a different level technologically,” he argued. “It has outgrown and passed the little guys in Granville.”
Senior resident Missie Pennant told The Sunday Gleaner team that a number of families have fled the community during the upheavals, leaving many homes unattended.
“At one time it was so bad that people started to leave. There are a lot of empty houses; Granville has become a place that you don’t want to live any more,” she shared.
For Tamara Cargile, fruit vendor and a resident of Granville for the past eight years, there have been good times in the community. “You just have to look out for the unexpected stuff, but apart from that it is OK to live here.”
Prominent land developer and Granville resident Mark Kerr-Jarrett lauds the police for their efforts, but is calling for the installation of Jamaica Eye in the community.
“I believe that some of the violence, especially in Gut Bottom, Fuller, and those areas, are based on long-standing family feuds,” said Kerr-Jarrett, a former chairman for the St James Parish Development Committee. “We must break those barriers, which have fragmented the community over the years, and tear down the gangs’ strongholds and their influence over the community.”
The outspoken businessman argued, “There has been no real infrastructure upgrading, even though the size of Granville has grown three, four, five times in my lifetime. I hate to say it but Granville, like a lot of Montego Bay, needs a complete overhaul.”
‘He was my dad, not a gangster’
… Daughter yearns for father who was gunned down months after being released from prison
Just when 18-year-old Alyssa Shaw thought she would have all the time to bond with her father after his release from prison, he was gone, taken out by rival gangsters from his past, leaving her with only thoughts of what could have been.
However, the Granville, St James, resident has nothing but fond memories of her father, Brian Shaw, who was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for illegal possession of a firearm and 18 years for wounding with intent, when she was only five years old.
The sentences ran concurrently, but not before his failed attempt to have the judgment overturned.
“During his incarceration, my mother ensured that my little sister and I maintained a close relationship with him through phone calls,” she recalled. “She would call him and tell him how we were doing in school, and even though he couldn’t call on a daily basis, when he did call he would stress the importance of our studies.”
Alyssa, the junior councillor for the Granville division at the St James Municipal Corporation, did not learn of her father’s life as a gangster until she was much older, but she only saw him as her dad.
“Learning that my father was a gangster never gave me any protection, and despite learning as I grew up of my father’s gun-related activities, my perception of him as my father didn’t change. I just accepted that this is who he is, I can’t blame him for something that I had no control over,” she said.
“I think if I was listening to others, it would affect me, but my mother raised us in a way that we accepted his absence and just moved on.”
GONE IN A FEW MONTHS
The family knew that Shaw was going to be released in April 2019, but it was not believable until Alyssa saw him standing in the door, with his followers behind him.
“He hugged me and my little sister, then my mother got the third hug and it was then that it hit me that my dad was going to be here with us for the rest of my life, but months after he was taken from me,” she expressed with sadness.
All Alyssa had dreamed to do with her father was now possible. They were like glue, she said, but one evening while having a drink at a bar, his daughter believes men recognised him from past acts and took his life.
“It was a nostalgic moment to learn of his death,” she said. “He was at the wrong place at the wrong time and just like that he was gone again, just when we were making progress with our father-daughter relations.”
Alyssa will be attending Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in September to study English literature and English language, but while she remembers the admonition of her late father to always aim high, she would do anything to have him watch her develop, knowing that he would be cheering her on.
“I would have loved to have my father here with me for Father’s Day. Whatever he did, whoever he was, he was my father and I miss him,” the young woman stated.