By Brian Bonitto Associate editor -- Auto and Entertainment firstname.lastname@example.org
WITH four days already struck from this year's calendar, Jamaica Constabulary Force's traffic division head, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Radcliffe Lewis, continues at the "non-stop" pace did last year.
The top cop, who featured prominently in the news throughout 2012, has no intention of slowing down. He was about to address scores of disgruntled motorists who had converged at his Lower Elletson Road headquarters in St Andrew on Wednesday to query their traffic-ticket status.
"I'm suspending the prosecution and arrests of motorists with outstanding tickets prior to September 20, 2010, for two weeks. This will give them enough time to straighten out themselves. So, they can go to the courts and have their tickets rectified, as those tickets cannot be paid at the tax office. There is no extension of the amnesty," SSP Lewis said.
A six-month traffic-ticket amnesty, which began in July 2012, saw thousands of persons islandwide rushing to clear up outstanding fees ahead of the December 2012 deadline. The Government has, so far, collected $340 million.
SSP Lewis, who is scheduled to retire next month, said he was pleased that motorists were seeking to clear unpaid tickets. He, however, acknowledged that the process was not without glitches.
In fact, a concerned Delroy Anderson from Portland, who said he had taken time off from work to seek clarification at the traffic division, can attest to that.
The Portlander said he was held by the police in his native parish for outstanding traffic tickets and was taken to Kingston and charged.
"Me spend one day and one night inna St Catherine District Prison in Spanish Town. My wife come and pay $55,670.50 and I was released on February 1, 2011. Now, mi have a printout weh say me still owe fi dem same ticket deh," a distressed Anderson told Auto, while showing evidence of his prison release, payment of fine, and the list of offences.
The traffic division head said he was aware of Anderson's case and it was being investigated.
"We are trying to assist him in the best way possible," SSP Lewis told Auto.
Barber Adrian Clarke's concern was, however, different.
"My name came up on the system to say I ran a stop light in 2007. I had a licence but never had vehicle or access to one. Now, dem say I owe $4,000, but I'm going to pay it as I don't have the time to waste one more whole day," Clarke said.
Since assuming the reins of the JCF's traffic division in 2009, SSP Lewis has executed a raft of initiatives which have elicited commendations as well as criticisms.
Year-end saw Kenute Hare, director of the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, lauding the senior superintendent and his team's efforts in attempting to reduce road deaths below the 300 mark.
A total of 256 persons lost their lives on the island's roadways in 2012. The last time fewer than 300 persons perished in crashes was in 1999.
"It is a team effort by the traffic police, regular police, Island Special Constabulary Force members, Island Traffic Authority and the Transport Authority," he said. "I couldn't take any special praise for this achievement."
Last year also saw SSP Lewis taking aim at corporate entities whose vehicles bore private licence plates instead of commercial ones.
He was at the centre of police joint operations in the Corporate Area as well as in the tourist belt of the island. He also locked horns with taxi drivers plying Papine to Half-Way Tree, Mountain View to Half-Way Tree, and downtown Kingston to Papine routes in St Andrew. Several taxi drivers operating on those routes withdrew their service in protest against a clampdown on illegal operators.
The tough-talking cop also chided smartphone users who were "broadcasting" information on police spot checks and speed traps.
"You may be alerting gunmen," he was quoted in a previous article as saying. "Everybody is crying about Jamaica's high crime rate. Some persons have gone to the extent to say the police are not doing anything to control crime. So why when we're out there trying to control crime and the movement of criminals, you find persons alerting criminals and prospective criminals?" Lewis lamented.