RESIDENTS of St Johns Heights in St Catherine, who have been hit by a spate of robberies in recent months, say they are held at the ransom of a merciless triad.
Inadequate street lighting, a sorry excuse for a road, and overgrown lots which provide the perfect vantage point for their tormentors have the mostly working-class citizenry there on edge.
To date, the police have been unable to hold anyone in connection with the robberies which have seen a resurgence since last October.
"They break in when you are not there, they do hold- ups and take away people's car," one resident, who said she has lived in the community for 13 years, told the Jamaica Observer. Although her house was broken into some 10 years ago, she is still troubled by the resurgence that has affected several of her neighbours.
The police, though responsive, are slow on the draw, she complained.
"Sometimes the police take long to come and the bushes are a deterrent. The lots are owned, but the owners don't bush them and there are more than a thousand lots here," she said.
"It's very expensive to bush a lot; they should give us a police post; the station (the Guanaboa Vale Police Station) is way up in the bush where nobody lives, sometimes they have vehicles sometimes they don't, police post must in the town man. I think a lot of people live in here and they have to do something about it," she noted.
Further reluctant to be a sitting duck for danger, the resident said she has taken matters, which should be rectified by the authorities, into her own hands.
"That street light right there, anytime them want to repair a mi haffi repair them. That bulb up there did blow and a mi get one put back up there an dem teef it dung an mi get somebody put up back one," she said, noting that having it down was "a big security risk".
She said the "road", which is a meandering track teetering on the point of becoming a trench in some sections, is another drawback to the residents and a bonus for the thieves.
"When we talk to persons about the road, they tell us it's private but they still collect property tax. The developer died long ago; even the infrastructure he had put in they stole them out, so even water we had a hard time getting water back in here," she said.
One other resident, Carlington -- who almost fell prey to the robbers -- said the situation has bonded the neighbourhood together. Residents, he said, have taken to looking out for each other and spending their own resources to maintain empty lots in their section of the community.
"I wrote to the St Catherine Parish Council recently about the situation with the street lights; I have not received an answer yet, but the poor lighting gives the thieves the upper hand. It's basically for them to fix the light in the community and install where there are none," he said.
"It became more after the gentleman from the Postal Corporation of Jamaica was kidnapped and killed, but it seems to be unabated now, but we haven't been able to get anybody yet but quite a few persons have suffered. There are no police patrols," Eric, another resident, told the Observer.
Another resident said his home was broken into a mere three months after he moved in.
"Basically, we didn't have anything in the house for them to steal because we had sold everything to finish the house so they stole the children's piggy bank and my wife had some money and they stole that, whoever is doing it seems to know our operations, the times we go out and the time when we are getting back in," he told the Observer.
The resident said while he was lucky to only have one violation, one neighbour had suffered a similar fate five times. "The response from the police is very slow, when they were breaking into my house someone saw and called the police and they got here after I got here, most of the times when we make a call whoever is doing it has ample time to get away," he said.
Courtney Barrett, the man who has been trying to revive a citizen's association in the area, said that residents have over the years pushed for the police to be relocated to the nearby Kitson Town. However, those efforts have petered out he said.
On Sunday, Superintendent Anthony Castelle, who is in Charge of St Catherine North where the community falls, said the police have been "operating in that area".
"As a matter of fact, if we were not there we would not have been able to intervene in a situation the other day and we were able to recover two firearms," he told the Observer.
In the meantime, he said a police post has long been proposed for the area, but it remains a proposal.
"We are looking at the former site of an old primary school, Johnson Pen Primary, the school has been shifted to Fairfield Road. The hold-up is that it is a ministerial decision, it is a proposed site, it is not something that has been taken where it can get attention," he said.
His next statement, however, would prove small comfort to the beleaguered residents of St Johns Heights.
"That's (police post) a long-term objective; it's not something that will happen overnight... I am awaiting higher authority to take that up," he said.