Mayor plans to put brakes on parking thugs
By Brian Bonitto Associate Editor — Auto and Entertainment email@example.com
TOUTS extorting motorists for parking along the streets of downtown Kingston's commercial district are back on the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation's (KSAC) radar.
Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke said discussions were under way which would eventually result in hassle-free parking for motorists.
"I am aware that many persons feel intimidated by these touts when parking on the road, especially the women. And this is not what we want; we want a safe environment," she said.
Thugs charge motorists a minimum of $100 to use the free parking along the streets in the city's commercial district. They use boulders, boxes, crates and other heavy duty items to occupy the spots when vacant.
Duke, Orange, Barry, and King streets are the hub of this illegal activity.
"We have tried to speak to some of these men. Some of them don't even see it as illegal," she said.
Superintendent Victor Hamilton, officer in charge of the Kingston Central Division, said it is a game of cat-and-mouse with these thugs.
"We take them up and they come back. It's disgusting," he said.
Depending on how 'the act' is committed, thugs could be charged with demanding money by menace or extortion.
Superintendent Hamilton said he was also hampered with manpower shortage as most of his troops are deployed to the frontline.
"Hot spots are emerging every day in Kingston... South Side, Tel Aviv and Fletcher's Land, and we have to be there," he said.
The police have also insisted that motorists should not park on corners and should use the legitimate parking areas.
The Church Street-based municipal car park charges $200 per hour.
The mayor said discussions were under way for the installation of parking meters.
"It's a public-private partnership... but we're looking at it," she continued.
The mayor said the Development Bank of Jamaica were part of the discussions and a draft document should be prepared by the end of the first quarter of 2014.
"The pilot will take along two streets and then I can make a determination," she said.
This is not the first time that there has been talk of installing parking meters in downtown Kingston.
In 2010, former mayor Desmond McKenzie said he had begun talks with an American-based company to erect meters downtown. This, he said, would render the parking thugs irrelevant.