Clampdown on drug pushers in Negril

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Clampdown on drug pushers in Negril

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer writer

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

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NEGRIL, Westmoreland — The Westmoreland police have arrested and charged 10 people for possession of drugs in this resort town as the security forces intensify their drive to stamp out the sale of  drugs to visitors.


The operations started on January 16 and continued over the weekend.


Additionally, one man is being sought by the police for illegally offering horseback riding service to tourists on the famous seven-mile Negril beach.

The animal has been impounded by the police, while the rider escaped by swimming off into the sea when he was reportedly approached by the police.


Among those arrested and charged is a man whom the police said was held with approximately three ounces of ganja on the beach.


Superintendent Robert Gordon said the man, whose name was not released, is a repeat offender who was taken before the court, fined, and released.


“He has been arrested on a number of occasions before [but] it has become a habit for him to be engaging in those activities,” Superintendent Gordon stressed.


The superintendent of police explained how individuals involved in the selling of marijuana avoid a criminal record even if caught.


“What they do [is] keep the satchel [of drugs] elsewhere, and then they go out with small amounts, get rid of that, and then move back and forth,” he said.


Under the amended Dangerous Drugs Act 2015, it is not a criminal offence to have in one's possession two or less ounces of marijuana. However, it is a criminal offence to be in possession of more than two ounces of marijuana.

Individuals caught can be arrested, charged, tried in court, and if found guilty, can be ordered to pay a fine or be sentenced to imprisonment, or both. The conviction is also recorded on the individual's criminal record.


Superintendent Gordon said people are taking advantage of the law.


“The amount that he is carrying at any one point does not exceed the two ounces that he can get a criminal record or anything like that for. So, they are taking advantage, so to speak, of the decriminalisation of the two ounces and under amount,” said Superintendent Gordon.


The recent arrests followed a letter written to stakeholders in Negril by a regular visitor to the island, with a photograph of the accused and video attached.


The Jamaica Observer obtained a copy of the letter, which stated: “We often visit Jamaica at least once per year. However, this trip was different. The excess harassment and constant sale of every drug imaginable was overwhelming. We could not walk for more than two minutes without someone offering us drugs,” said the writer.


“I am sure you are fully aware [that] the beach is overrun with pimps, prostitutes, hustlers, and drug dealers. Dealers are now riding bikes on the beach, three to four times a day, selling drugs,” it continued.


Meanwhile, Superintendent Gordon told the Observer that following a meeting with tourism stakeholders in Negril last week, a number of other initiatives will be rolled out in the resort town in coming weeks as part of other efforts to put a dent to the illicit activities.


“We would have met with tourist interests within the space, and we would have come up with some additional solutions to the problem which will be rolled out in short order. And, there are others to come in the medium-term [so] I am positive that those new initiatives will put a further dent in the illicit trade,” he said.


The senior officer, who did not give details and a time frame for the roll out of the other initiatives, said they will include the use of technology.


President of the Negril Chamber of Commerce Richard Wallace told the Observer that while the police are willing and are trying to address the issue, there is a need to have a look at the laws which are woefully inadequate, and as such are making the job of the police difficult.


“For example, they arrest people and bring them before the court, and then the judge slaps them with a minimal fine, and they just pay the fine and go back to work,” said Wallace. It frustrates the police and frustrates all of us because most of these people are repeat offenders.”


Wallace added that there are no laws on the books that effectively protect the tourism industry. “When most of these laws were enacted, there wasn't even a tourism industry at that time,” he stressed.


The chamber president has, meanwhile, called for an adjustment of “the regular laws or the JTB (Jamaica Tourist Board) Act to protect the industry”.


“We are not saying that it should be done in a way that will close the doors on Jamaicans. What we want is for everybody to partake in a structured and organised way so that the industry can grow and not a free-for-all,” Wallace said.


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