BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
DUNCANS, Trelawny — Since last week, Eunice Clarke, a 73-year-old Duncans resident, has been paying closer attention to her Bible.
A devout Christian, the elderly food vendor says she now reads the 'Good Book' even more, as she seeks solace in the Almighty in the wake of two recent deadly shootings in her normally peaceful community.
"I used to read my Bible and pray but now I even read it more. I have to call upon God more now because if it was wasn't for Him, maybe more of us would have died," Clarke told the Jamaica Observer during a visit to the rural community on Friday.
The able-bodied woman, who sells her ground provisions from a tiny stall close to the small Duncans square, was referring to the recent shooting death of eight-year-old British national Imani Green in the Red Dirt area of the community.
Two other persons were injured in that gun attack, which was reportedly carried out by a lone shooter at about 7:00 pm on January 11.
Three days after that incident, a man who was later identified as Xavier Lewis was shot dead by a lone gunman in a daring daylight attack a few metres from the Duncans Police Station. Another man was also shot and injured in that incident.
Clarke, who is incidentally Imani's great-grandmother and has lived all of her life in Duncans, points out that the community was "almost crime free", prior to the two incidents, which many residents believe are linked.
"Duncans wasn't like this, we used to walk free and without fear on any of the streets. Duncans was a quiet place, but from the shootings happen me feel afraid, so I have been praying hard to God to give me strength," the elderly, but very vocal Clarke remarked.
A small bustling town, Duncans is said to have been named after its founder Patrick Duncan in the 1700's.
The tight-knit community, which is bordered by a number of other small communities, including the resort area of Silver Sands; Carey Park and Crawle, has seen several housing developments and business entities being established over recent years.
Duncans boasts, among other things, a post office, police station, basic and primary schools, a library, several churches, a newly constructed petrol station, as well as recently constructed plazas.
The small town is also know for its vibrant nightlife.
But in the wake of the recent shootings, the community has seemingly been gripped with fear coupled with a downturn in economic activities, particularly at nights.
"Everybody is scared. Duncans is not normally like this. It is a peaceful town; you can hang out in the wee hours playing dominoes on the roadside... and you don't have anything to worry about. Anybody can come in and out of the community, but since the incidents, everything is on a low, business is on a low," said businessman Mark Green, the operator of Dirks Sports Bar and Seafood Restaurant.
" If you are taking a taxi in the nights the drivers will tell you that they are not going into Duncans. The incidents have really portrayed a bad imagine of the community."
He estimates that sales at his business establishment have declined by roughly 50 per cent since the shootings.
"Our business depends on nightlife and because the people are not coming out at nights due to the fear factor, that is killing our business," he argued.
The 46-year-old businessman told the Sunday Observer however that several of his colleagues are now in the process of planning a peace dance in an effort "to get the residents' minds off the incidents and try to bring back the peace and the unity in the town."
" We love Duncans and we are not going to allow it to get out of hand, so we are working with the law enforcers to try to get to the bottom of the thing. But people are very, very scared," he emphasised.
But even as the residents have openly expressed fear for their lives, there remains a strong police presence in the community.
Commander in charge of the Trelawny Police Division Senior Superintendent Noel Christie said yesterday that a curfew that was imposed on the community last Thursday is expected to end today.
The police, he added, will however continue to monitor activities in the area.
Meanwhile, SSP Christie said that charges are likely to be laid against "some persons" who have been taken into custody in connection with both shooting incidents.
"We have gotten strong leads and we have picked up a few persons and very soon, maybe by Wednesday, persons will be charged," said SSP Christie.
In the meantime, the SSP is commending the residents of Duncans for their co-operation with the lawmen following the shootings in the community.