Conflict-torn Gregory Park craving opportunities
The nightmare scenario of going to bed and waking up each day with a feeling of hopelessness and the increased possibility of dying any minute by the bullet has become the harsh reality for some residents of Gregory Park in Portmore, St Catherine, where gangsters from areas known as Gulf, Mexico, Christian Pen and Clarks Road have been feuding for some time now.
What started out as a fight for political turf in the past has now transitioned into a gang-related conflict where not only battle lines are drawn, but clear lines of physical demarcation that warring factions from the different areas dare not cross.
Youths in the predominantly squatter community of the area known as the Gulf revealed that while they are restricted to their area, afraid to venture beyond the roundabout in the community, they are unfairly targeted by the security forces that have intensified their presence in the area since the recent shooting death of a police sergeant.
“Every time a shot fire dem run up inna Gulf and start threaten fi kill we off,” said a small business operator who asked not to be identified. “Dem say a only gunman live inna Gulf, but dem nuh see when Mexico, Christian Pen and Clarks Road gunman dem a fire shot. Mi nah seh one and two man nuh answer, but dem nah go out there and kill people just so,” the business operator asserted.
Asked if the police claims are true, the business operator replied, “Gunman deh everywhere! We have decent, hard-working professional people living in here too.”
And while St Catherine East Central Member of Parliament Alando Terrelonge, during his recent contribution to the Constituency Debate in Parliament, cited the poor conditions that the people in Gregory Park are living in, and expressed unease, there is a growing fear by residents that there is a calculated plan afoot to push them out of the community because they want to build apartments for upper-class people when Portmore becomes a parish.
“Most of us have been living here for more than 10 years and up until now we can’t get a piece of paper to show ownership. If we get assistance we could improve our lives, but nobody cares. A man came around one time and collect money from we fi the land we live on, sey the MP send him, but we find out sey a lie him tell, so guess what, dem kill him,” said a resident who called himself Tony.
He added that if the Government legitimises the people now squatting, by giving them housing assistance and putting in basic infrastructure like parks, community centre, provide skills training for the youth and make it into a respectable place, most of the problems now associated with the community would be eradicated.
The residents in the Mexico area blamed the continued violence on players from the Gulf area. They told The Gleaner that they had to fight back by forming neighbourhood watches and work with the police to stop the infiltration of their community by outside gangsters.
“The tension is still high. I hear gunshot every night ... it is scary,” said a female resident who requested anonymity.
Meanwhile, Senior Superintendent of Police in charge of St Catherine South, Christopher Phillips, acknowledged that there is a serious gang problem in the communities that is posing a challenge for the police.
“The Gregory Park space, which is difficult to police because of the infrastructure, is posing a challenge for the police. The gangsters are playing a cat-and-mouse game with the police paying attention to their movement,” Phillips said recently, while assuring that the police will be relentless in pursuit of these gangsters.