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Former mayor says curfew hurting Flankers residents

Published:Saturday | April 14, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Adrian Frater, News Editor

Western Bureau:

FORMER MONTEGO Bay Mayor Charles Sinclair says residents in his Flankers division, St James, are being unfairly targeted by the police as they are being subjected to too many curfews without any apparent justification.

"Nothing of concern is happening there … there are no problems there … . I can't see the justification," said Sinclair, while speaking at Thursday's sitting of the St James Parish Council.

"In fact, I think it is unfair to be targeting the community like that … they (the police) need to balance the thing," added Sinclair.

The former mayor said he was particularly peeved by the social and economic impact on the community as social activities and business were suffering as residents had to stay indoors during the hours of the curfew.

"What is happening is tantamount to house arrest," noted Sinclair.

However, Senior Superintendent of Police Linette Williams-Martin, the commanding officer for the St James Police Division, disagrees with Sinclair's assessment.

Curfews justified

She argued that the curfews were entirely justified based on the potential for violence in Flankers, which is one of the eight designated hot spots in the parish.

"Flankers is a place with a great potential for violence, so we have to keep it under close surveillance … right now we are maintaining a 24-hour police presence there," said Williams-Martin. "To pull out the police at this time would be inviting trouble," she added.

Commenting on the reported impact the curfews were having on economic and social life in Flankers, Williams-Martin said life could not be "like normal" in a curfew as residents had to be kept off the streets.

"We can't have people moving around in a curfew … the police must have full control over what is happening around them," stated Williams-Martin.

The senior cop noted that the police would reassess the situation over time and make a determination as to whether the curfew should be lifted.

However, like Sinclair, the general citizenry of Flankers are upset by the curfews.

"Every day at 6 p.m., the police drive around and force the operator of cookshops, bars and other small businesses to close their establishments and go home," said Sandy Simpson, a resident of Flankers. "They are not doing any searches or anything ... they just lock us in and leave."