MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Assistant Commissioner of Police Derrick Cochrane has warned that crime could pose the biggest threat to Mandeville's highly anticipated transformation into a world-class education and information technology hub — a status that both political, education and business leaders have been pushing for over the last few years.
Cochrane, who is head of the Area Three Division (St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon) issued the warning at the recent Leaders' symposium hosted by Northern Caribbean University to discuss how best to transform the growing central Jamaica capital into a premier university town. The forum was one of a series of activities to mark the inauguration of the institution's 23rd president, Dr Trevor Gardner.
"It is bandied about that you want to make Mandeville a university town and to make Mandeville the Silicon Mountain of the Caribbean... you intend to attract investment from local and international sources... Any vision of Mandeville must be viewed in the context of the wider environment in which Mandeville exists nationally and internationally. The simple truth is that Mandeville does not exist in splendid isolation from the rest of Jamaica," the ACP said, pointing out that investors were attracted to low crime environments.
Cochrane did not point to any increase in organised crime in Mandeville and the wider Manchester. However there have been occasions in the past in which the Manchester police have nabbed well-known gang members hiding out in the parish. Additionally, a number of high-profile murders in recent years, including that of elderly business owners Richard and Julia Lyn, supermarket owner Vincent Young and police constable Toussaint James, have fuelled concerns.
In late 2009, in what appeared to be a response to a rising crime trend, a group, which called itself M Central Watch, formed a citizens' security squad. However, the squad went silent after a mix of public support and outcry, and instruction from the police to desist.
The recent murder of medical doctor Clinton Lewis also increased concerns about the parish's crime profile.
But ACP Cochrane says though the parish's 2012 murder rate is up 17 per cent when compared to the same period last year, major crimes are down 12 per cent. Since January, 23 persons have been murdered in Manchester, five more than the 18 killed during the same period last year. Major crimes have dipped from 312 this time in 2011 to 276 this year and the senior cop said when compared to national figures, Manchester was on a "downward trajectory and we intend to keep it that way".
The ACP said crime is still the single most potent threat to the Jamaican state, with organised gangs raking in billions of dollars. He said data out of the United States revealed that lottery scammers generated some US$300 million at the "low end", with only a fifth of the persons scammed making reports.
Cochrane called for more neighbourhood watches to be set up, both in and out of the parish, to help communities clamp down on illegal activities.
"It's at the community level where the crimes are committed and it is at the community level where it should be tackled and fought. The Neighbourhood Watch is more relevant now than it was then (in 1987 when it was started). Where there are neighbourhood watches, there is little or no crime... Jamaica is at a stage now where it needs to become one big neighbourhood watch," the ACP said.
He suggested that a similar security system be put in place to protect businesses and farms.