'We are afraid for our children'

Residents say deplorable roads aiding robberies in Strathmore Gardens

Sunday Observer staff reporter

Sunday, December 09, 2018

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Residents of Strathmore Gardens, Spanish Town, are angry over deplorable road conditions in their community which, they say, contributed to a young man with special needs being attacked and robbed by criminals as he walked home two weeks ago.

When 22-year-old Courtney Thompson Jr arrived home on Wednesday night, November 28, with bloodied clothes and a busted lip, his parents were understandably distressed that their son was yet another victim in a series of robberies in the community.

Thompson's mother, Vivette, reported that her son was just mere minutes away from home when two masked criminals, one with a gun, pounced on him, punching him in the face and robbing him of his cellphone.

“He was walking in because he would not have gotten taxi at that time of the night. Nobody wants to come in because we have had several hold-ups in the community, so taxi men are afraid to come in the area at nights. Other persons in recent times have been held up and robbed of cash and other valuables, and this is largely because of the poor road conditions. Taxis terminate at the entrance and they refuse to take passengers in the area,” said Mrs Thompson.

“We are afraid for our children because they have to walk in at nights. Some of us are afraid even to drive because we have to slow down to drive through the potholes... [they are] not even potholes, they are craters,” the mother added.

A retired resident, Leonie Dennis, complained that while other roads are being repaired in other parts of the parish, Strathmore Drive remains untouched.

“In the span of about two months there have been about five robberies and they never used to happen so frequently... it's like nobody owns us,” Dennis said in reference to the absence of road repairs.

One male resident, Kenneth Gordon, who was also robbed on the same road, complained that taxi drivers either refuse to turn onto the unpaved road, or demand more money than what residents would normally pay.

“Right now the taxi men don't come in the community and those who do are raising the fare. Them charge $300 to come in here,” Gordon said.

“There were two last week, and sometimes robberies go on and we don't even hear about it,” he continued.

Checks with the Spanish Town police, where Thompson's mother said she made a report, revealed that the cops are not aware of any other robberies.

The residents also raised concern for the children and workers from two children's homes in the community. Staff at the Sunshine Child Care facility reported that the children in State care who are housed there also have challenges going to and from school.

“We have nowhere to walk, especially the children when they have to come home from school. It is very difficult because there is no sidewalk or anything, so they have to walk in the water coming home from school,” said Sadie Bailey Henry, a worker at the home.

Another staff member, Ann Marie Stewart, explained that, “Sometimes when the rain falls the water is very high, so we don't have anywhere to walk, and sometimes some of us cannot come to work. Even the children cannot go to school sometimes because no transportation is coming in here.”

When the Jamaica Observer visited the community, the residents pointed to four sections of the road that were nearly impassable.

“Before, we called them holes, but now we call it river head because when the rain falls we have a river here,” Dennis said.

“We, as members of the community, from time to time do a little work, but it's not adequate. And so as the rain comes, it gets dug up again; and I understand that the other day, a child fell in it,” Dennis added.

Mrs Thompson concurred, saying that “when it rains, sometimes we have to wait until the water runs off before we can actually drive in. Some people even park their cars and walk because they don't want to damage their vehicles”.

According to the residents, the road has been in disrepair for almost 20 years, and although they have pointed it out to their member of parliament, the road is yet to be fixed.

“Each time I call her, she said she is waiting on the money. But while she is waiting on the money, the road is turning into a big river and we are suffering. It's embarrassing,” said Dennis.

Thompson said that the perpetrators who attacked her son have not been identified as he was not able to give full descriptions because it was dark.

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