MORE than 100 handcarts have been seized from the streets of downtown Kingston by the authorities over the last six weeks, sparking anger among owners and vendors.
According to the police, the handcarts were seized as part of a drive to clear the usually bustling streets of illegal vendors.
"Several of the operators were held for committing a number of breaches, ranging from operating their handcarts without registration and blocking major thoroughfares," Leslie Watt, outgoing deputy commandant of the city's Metropolitan Operations Division, told the Jamaica Observer last Friday.
Police said several of the vendors who sell from their handcarts were found operating illegally along sections of Orange Street, Darling Street and surrounding areas.
But the measures have left several cart operators and vendors fuming.
"This cannot be right. How is it that the police seizing our carts, but all now they don't finalise how much cart operators should pay as fee to get registered at the KSAC?" asked Cornelia McDonald, one vendor who operates a cart along Orange Street.
"Dem nuh have no interest in us at all. Dem seh we must get registered if we are cart operators, but there is no avenue to do this," said another vendor who asked not to be named.
Clive Brown, who sells from his handcart along Darling Street, shared similar sentiments.
"How can the police be seizing our carts and we cannot register?" Brown asked.
But commercial services manager at the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), Gary Robotham, said the charge made by the vendors was not entirely true.
According to Robotham, officials from the KSAC earlier this year started a series of discussions with handcart operators to finalise how much they should pay to get registered, but not many of the operators participated in the discussions.
Robotham said, as a result, the KSAC has not reached a definitive position on the fees.
However, he said that the discussions are continuing and the idea to get handcart operators licensed was still alive.
"We are still clear that they have to be licensed, but in terms of the strategy with how we go about getting them regulated, [that] is now under discussion," said Robotham.
Head of the Kingston Central Police Division, Senior Superintendent Steve McGregor, said the allegations made by vendors may have come about because of some miscommunication.
"Many of the handcarts removed from the streets were seized because they were being operated in no-vending areas, or the vendors themselves were operating without a licence," McGregor told the Jamaica Observer.
He said the breaches provided enough grounds for the police to clamp down on vendors who continued to ignore warnings and who continued to break the law.
Earlier this year, scores of vendors staged a protest, accusing the police of confiscating and destroying their goods.
Police at the time denied the claims and explained that the operation to rid the streets of illegal vendors was necessary to allow motorists and police to travel freely through the city's busy streets.
McGregor said the operations were necessary and would allow police to operate more efficiently in clamping down on criminal activities in the streets.
"Where there is chaos there is crime, as crime thrives on chaos and disorder," said McGregor.