Lives, livelihoods affected
MR JENKINS hurriedly locks up his grocery shop. The guns are barking and he is taking no chances.
Gun violence is the single greatest problem affecting the lives and livelihoods of residents in Newlands, Portmore, St Catherine. They fear for their lives and the lives of their children.
Rival gangs at war have seriously hampered and curtailed many activities in the community from time to time, say residents.
Police from the Community Safety and Security Branch, which is set up to push forward the agenda of community policing, told The Sunday Gleaner that there are real challenges in the area.
Held at ransom
"Each time there is a flare-up the community is being held to ransom, with persons unable to travel as they please. Therefore, a multi-agency intervention is needed," a spokesperson from the Community Safety and Security Branch told The Sunday Gleaner.
The Social Development Commission (SDC) has joined the police to bring back social stability to Newlands, one of the original housing developments in the South St Catherine constituency.
Among the interventions is the formation of a citizens' association.
"We have been working in partnership with the SDC to bring the Newlands community to the potentially good place that it can be. We started to deal with community policing there but had to stop after crime got in the way. However, following police operations, things started to progress once more," Corporal Jacqueline Grant of the Community Safety Police Division told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Illiteracy forms part of the problem, as persons involved in criminal behaviour can hardly write their names, so they can easily be manipulated. So the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning has been brought on-board to help and re-educate those who are being led astray and want to turn their lives around," Corporal Grant added.
Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson said the problem needs urgent attention and that the police need help.
"Gang feuds have crippled the community. The problem is not abstract, it is seriously disrupting the lives of residents, who keep wondering who is next. Therefore, it must be tackled now," Jackson said.