BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — A number of high-profile crimes in recent months, including the murder of two doctors, and several widely circulated reports of armed robberies, have left residents of this south central highlands town and the Greater Manchester in fear.
But the Manchester police high command is assuring residents and the business community that the criminal threat level is no greater than it was before, and that in fact, the numbers show some crimes trending downwards.
"There are concerns, but no (increased) threat to the business community of Manchester," head of the Manchester police, Superintendent Lascelles Taylor told the Manchester Chamber of Commerce in a spirited address Thursday night.
Taylor told his audience, which included leading members of the Manchester business community, that while murders had increased so far this year when compared to last year, "80 per cent were linked to the breakdown of (personal) relationships. In other words you know me and I know you".
He said the murders of Drs Clinton Lewis in June and Phillip Chamberlain in July were included in what he described as relationship crimes.
The police have previously released the names of three people who are wanted for questioning in connection with the two deaths — Vaughn Lee Edwards of Black River, St Elizabeth, is wanted for the murder of Lewis, while Jillian Bernard of Spalding, Clarendon, and Roger Broderick, also known as 'government', of Alston, Clarendon, are wanted in connection with the slaying of Chamberlain.
Taylor said 33 people have been murdered in Manchester between January 1 and October 4 this year, compared to 22 for the same period last year.
He said that shootings reported to the police have declined so far this year, from 42 for the nine-month period last year, to 24 for the same period this year. Robberies have also declined, from 146 for the period last year to 92 this year. Break-ins, too, have seen a decline, from 259 to 225, he said.
However the police superintendent reported that rape has increased from 22 reported incidents for the period last year to 30 this year. He suggested that several sex crimes were the result of people making contact on the Internet and for "some reason" deciding to meet in Manchester. He urged parents to pay attention to who their young daughters were choosing to meet and how such meetings were being arranged.
Taylor also sought to "warn young people that Internet and social media are good, but I think you should use it for educational purposes, not for relationship and courtship ..."
Also, he suggested that increased prostitution in the Mandeville area had fuelled the rape reports as, when prostitutes and their clients failed to agree terms it often ends badly.
Where theft is concerned, the superintendent said the large number of students attending tertiary institutions in Mandeville, especially the fast-growing Northern Caribbean University (NCU), was linked to crimes involving the theft of laptops, high-end cellphones and other hi-tech gadgetry.
He urged people, especially students, to avoid walking around with openly displayed gadgets that were much in demand. In the case of laptops, Taylor said lotto scammers were among those always seeking fresh equipment since a machine had to be disposed of after each scamming operation to avoid traceability.
Motorists should avoid displaying such equipment in their cars, he said.
Taylor said the high incidence of house breakings in Manchester was largely the result of poor neighbourliness and a breakdown in traditional community relations.
Said he: "A lot of persons in Manchester are exposed to First-World culture and so you live with a neighbour for 30 and 40 years and you don't know who you neighbour is; you don't say hello and good morning. These people come to Jamaica with the same attitude ... and you're going away for a while to America, Canada or England ... I am saying, tell somebody nuh man! You don't have to hug them up and gossip with them, but nothing is wrong if you say 'good morning, Mr Brown. I won't be here for a week and I don't give anybody any permission to come to the house, can you keep an eye for me?' Anything wrong with that?
"People leave their houses for weeks or for months and when they come back they say the house was broken into and then you hear the neighbour: 'Yes, you know I saw a man over there, but I thought it was a workman...'. "
Arguing that police can't be everywhere, Taylor echoed the sentiments of Assistant Commissioner of Police Derrick Cochrane who heads the Police Area 3 (St Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon), that communities need to work with the police to build neighbourhood watch programmes.
"Where you have neighbourhood watch groups there is little or no crime," Cochrane, who has been actively championing the neighbourhood watch cause, had earlier told the Chamber.
Responding to a suggestion at the meeting that extortion was said to be on the rise in Mandeville, Taylor said he was hearing it for the first time and vigorously urged the business community to keep the police informed.
"I am saying to business people in Manchester, if you have a problem and you don't tell the police, we can't do anything about it ... You don't even have to call the police station, you can call 119, Crime Stop, King Fish, the anti- corruption line ... We have trained persons who the Government spends how much million dollars to train to investigate (crimes such as extortion) and they need work, they need work, so report it," said Taylor.