THE Jamaica Public Service (JPS) says residents of several of inner-city communities in the Corporate Area, who have been complaining of non-functioning street lights, have themselves to blame for the problem.
According to the company, investigations have brought to light evidence that some residents — in whose communities the anti-tamper Residential Automated Metering Infrastructure (RAMI) system has been installed — have turned to the street lights in their quest to continue abstracting electricity.
The JPS has sought to clear the air amidst fresh complaints from residents of Greenwich Town in South West St Andrew that they are living in fear because of the prevailing darkness.
"Greenwich Town is one of the communities in which we have installed the RAMI system. This means that persons can no longer use 'throw-ups' on JPS lines to access electricity," explained Audrey Williams, the corporate communication officer at the JPS.
She said residents, in their attempt to "beat the system", have tapped into streetlights to access power and when this is done, the system becomes overloaded and the street lights go out. She said investigations revealed that "someone" had paid another individual to bypass the street light meter and was supplying the other residents with power. She said similar breaches have been detected in Denham Town, Oakland Road, Arnett Gardens, Tivoli and some sections of Trench Town.
"In order for the street lights to be restored, team members have to go to the street lights, remove the street light meter, take it back to JPS for reprogramming (in the instance of these particular street lights), and return it to the area, and have the lights restored," Williams told the Jamaica Observer.
She said an attempt was made on October 17 to repair the lights in Greenwich Town, but the JPS crew was greeted with "great hostility".
The presence of our crews to take out the meter means they were going to lose the illegal supply. Our crew was threatened with physical violence, including being shot," Williams said in a written response to questions from the Observer.
She said the team had to quickly retreat from the area and that the matter was reported to the "councillor", who is expected to have dialogue with the residents.
On Tuesday, residents complained that the darkness is giving criminals cover to carry out their dastardly deeds. They threatened to stage a protest against the JPS.
"Right now the people in the community just a live and worry. For more than five months now the street lights in the area down and we don't see the Jamaica Public Service Company coming to address the problem," claimed Sophia Simpson.
"We need some attention; the problem is getting out of hand," added Clive Hewitt, another resident.
Similar calls have been made by residents of other communities, including Olympic Gardens and Maxfield Avenue, where electricity theft is viewed as chronic.
"Right now with the place so dark at nights we fear both criminals, who lurk in the dark corners, and police who come in the area and are forced to work with little or no light," one resident of Maxfield Avenue told the Observer.
On Wednesday, the JPS said that it would continue to look at ways to address the issue.