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Motorists feel safer with illegal parking attendants than police

BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Sunday Observer staff reporter husseyd@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 15, 2014    

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MOTORISTS who use the unregulated parking lots in downtown Kingston's market district are dissatisfied with the authorities' recent initiative to remove the men who act as parking attendants, as they say they feel more secure with these men than with the police.

"Yu vehicle safe with them," said a Rastafarian, who gave his name only as Buckley, while sitting in his vehicle on Darling Street on Thursday. "Yu si when yu park yu vehicle and them out here, nobody can't bruk in it and trouble nutten! Is the truth, my sister.

"Is better when you give them one $50, and if you don't have it them cool same way. But if you give them one $50 is not nutten, 'cause they protect yu things."

According to Buckley, motor vehicles are often burgled when the self-appointed parking attendants are not there.

"Man all rob people vehicle. But any one of them yu see park yu vehicle, them protect it 'til you come. So it better for you when them out here," he said.

Another shopper, who gave his name only as Barry, agreed.

"Mi nuh have no problem with them, and is long time now mi a park out here," he said. "It's about 50 years now I have been coming down here and I never had a problem with them. I don't know about other people, but I don't have a problem with them."

But head of the Kingston Western Police, Senior Superintendent Steve McGregor, said the decision to remove the men is a renewed

effort under Operation Resilience, spearheaded by the Office of the Commissioner of Police, which aims to take back the market district

from criminals.

"The activity is not legal. The place is owned by UDC (Urban Development Corporation) and people have no guarantee that they will be safe with these men," McGregor told the Jamaica Observer on Friday.

"What these men do is use this activity to finance gang activities. We have engaged the proper authorities in discussions so that they can have proper security and fence the place," he explained.

Since June 5, the police have taken over three informal parking lots located on West and Darling streets, which they say were being operated by extortionists.

McGregor said while the removal of the men will not be completed overnight, a number of them have been arrested, while others have been warned.

"What we are aiming to do is to bring structure to the parks," McGregor said. "But, like I said, it will take some time, because it has been going on for a long time."

While unable to say how many men have been operating as parking attendants, McGregor said their aim was to make money using any opportunity available.

"They will even break into cars and steal what they can," he said. "There is no guarantee that your vehicle will be safe. People will say they have to eat a food, but they have no right to be demanding money from people," McGregor said.

But drivers like Buckley, who said he has been shopping at Coronation Market for more than 40 years, disagreed strongly with the accusations levelled against the men.

"The police a try get them out, but it better for them to be here," Buckley insisted. "Listen, mi is a man who lef my vehicle go anywhere and when mi come back, it safe. So if mi nuh have them here to protect it, any one of the boy can come here and tief it.

"But once them out here, yu safe. Because mi see police down the road and them tief a lady van right in front of me, that was last year. Because yu find that the police not really watching yu vehicle, so it better when the men out here. It better when them out here because yu tings well protected," Buckley insisted.

Another market shopper, Judeen Murray, said she would not encourage the police to remove the men, but instead make provision for those who are respectful and who are simply trying to make an honest living.

"They should not remove them because the police not seeing yu things all the while," Murray said. "I rather when I come out here and see them. To tell you the truth, if I come one day and don't see the guy who usually park me, I don't feel comfortable. If they not here I wouldn't feel safe shopping down here. Once he is here I can leave my car open and don't have to worry, because more than once when I come back I realise my vehicle open and I never miss anything."

Ronald Campbell, who told the Sunday Observer that he has been shopping at Coronation Market for almost 30 years, said he, too, feels very safe once he sees his "friend".

"When mi see mi fren' and know say him looking on my vehicle mi feel better, because mi come here often and mi can trust the person," Campbell said. "Mi can even wind down mi glass and leave it and when mi come back mi don't have a problem. And yu don't have to pay them, it's just if you want to give them a ting you give them a ting. If you don't want [to] give them, yu good same way. So I don't see any harm in them being here. I think it's safer when they are around."

Léroy Williams, who was seen entering his vehicle with his wife, pulled out a note and handed it to one of the parking attendants who was assisting them.

"I shop here often and I wouldn't want the police to move them because is hustle dem hustling a little ting," Williams said, as his wife nodded in agreement. "Because it better dem hustle more than go take up gun and go rob people. And dem help protect yu vehicle. Them not hurting anybody. So it better them hustle and get a ting. I find that they have manners, and if yu don't have any money to give them and yu tell them, they just leave, they not reacting in any negative way."

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