'Safety first'

MoBay businesses see slump in sales but support state of public emergency

By Mark Cummings

Saturday, January 20, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Some business operators across the resort city of Montego Bay are already reporting a reduction in sales since the imposition of the state of public emergency on the parish on Thursday.

They are, however, pledging their support for the initiative, which is aimed at arresting the parish's worsening crime problem.

“Already we are seeing the effect of it [state of public emergency] on sales, but we have no choice, we have to work with the programme, because we just could not continue [in that way],” said prominent Montego Bay businessman Anthony Pearson, referring to St James' runaway crime rate.

He said, however, that it was too early to say what the percentage decline in sales will be.

“I can't tell you right now what is the percentage decline in sales, but business has definitely slowed down,” said Pearson, the proprietor of Lloyd's Department Store, which has branches on St James Street and in the Fairview Shopping Centre in the resort city.

Hope Sterling, proprietor of the Fashion Hut on St James Street, also in Montego Bay, said, too, that she has seen a slump in sales at her store.

“We are already seeing a decline in sales, but our safety comes first,” Sterling said, stressing that the state of public emergency should have been imposed on the parish “a long time ago”.

Several vendors who ply their wares on St James and Barnett streets in Montego Bay are also reporting declines in sales due to the restrictions placed on the opening of businesses.

“Business drop since yesterday [Thursday], because people are coming off the streets much earlier than usual,” a vendor told the Jamaica Observer.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Thursday announced the emergency measure in response to crime and lawlessness in St James, in which 335 people were murdered last year.

Yesterday, the police announced changes to the operating hours of businesses in the parish.

The law men said community recreational areas are to be closed by 6:00 pm, while cook shops, dry goods stores and haberdasheries are to adhere to a 7:00 pm closing time.

A 9:00 pm closing time has been issued for spirit licence premises and service stations should close by 10:00 pm.

The latest closing time is for clubs and fast food outlets, which are to shut their doors by midnight, the police said.

The cops warned the public to adhere to the restrictions, stressing that violators will be prosecuted.

But even before yesterday's announcement, many businesses in the resort city have, since Thursday, been closing their doors before regular hours.

Meanwhile, the security forces were yesterday again out in their numbers across several inner-city communities in the parish.

Our news team observed a number of police and soldiers stopping and searching vehicles, as well as passengers. A number of houses were also searched.

In the Norwood area of the parish, members of the Jamaica Defence Force were seen constructing an operational base on one of the community's playing fields.

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