Jamaicans in hiding say specialised cells for 'high-value' criminals not enough

Jamaicans in hiding say specialised cells for 'high-value' criminals not enough

Friday, July 03, 2020

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RESIDENTS of Red Hills Road, St Andrew, who fled their communities because of threats issued by thugs acting on the orders of an incarcerated man, say the pronouncement by National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang that such prisoners will be moved to cells where they will be cut off from all communication has not made them feel safer.

In fact, one of the residents told the Jamaica Observer that, with the changes expected in another week, a lot can happen by then.

“When Mr Chang give out all these information to the public, every and anything can happen within a week from now,” the individual said.

On Tuesday, Dr Chang in his sectoral debate presentation said within another week, convicts who have been issuing instructions to cronies on the outside will be moved to newly constructed cells. He told the House of Representatives that the first 24 such inmates will be moved in an effort to cripple the continuation of criminal activity from behind bars.

“We will have all the high-value criminals in a place where they can no longer give instructions,” the minister told the House.

Dr Chang did not give details, but the new cells for these high-profile criminals are expected to be equipped with technology that jams communication signals. Dr Chang said a recent double murder in rural Jamaica was one example of incidents engineered by individuals behind bars. He said the police using technology were privy to conversations in which the incarcerated figure gave instructions for the killings.

Early last month, the Red Hills Road residents, who reached out to the Observer at different times, said they had been forced to uproot their families and leave their homes to live under the radar because of the individual's henchmen.

The Observer was told that the incarcerated man regularly milks community members through his relatives. Those who resist are placed on a “list” and marked for death.

They said killings, including that of a 46-year-old shopkeeper on May 24th and a 26-year-old man on May 31st, were casualties of the individual's hold on the community. Families terrified that they are next on the list have scattered, with some refusing to share their location with each other out of fear.

The individuals in hiding were vociferous in their calls for more to be done.

“He said nothing about the safety of the people who live in the community and had to flee their home because of this don and his family who believe they are in charge of people life and are in charge of the community. We saw no [political] representatives come into the community... The guy still in prison and calling people and even asking for individuals by name, regardless [of him being] under tight security. What is that?” the individual demanded.

“As I speak there are family [members] that still watching other people that 'hit' is out for,” the individual said.

“No police patrolling... just nothing, so we all left to the [mercy] a di world,” the community member said further, noting that other individuals who managed to escape death and were injured when the alleged hitmen came for them were now also unable to return home.

“Who next from the list? Police went and warn a set of [persons] after [the shopkeeper's] death, to tell them to leave if it is possible or stay locked in. This is really, really impossible,” the individual continued.

Another resident, commenting on Chang's announcement, said it had not served to diminish their fear in any way.

“It is a good move but we still have to be hiding; the orders are still out there for our deaths. Mi sit down and mi cry about the whole situation, because I don't know what to do. What about us? We are really scared,” the individual expressed.

“The gunman dem done get dem order. Dem done know wi face, oh my God, I don't know. They don't understand what I am going through. Sometimes I feel like I am going off in my mind, I don't know who to trust, that's why I call you,” the individual told the Observer.

“It hard fi yuh work and can't live in yuh own house. Mi fraid, tears inna mi heart, mi a cry. Mi pleading for help, oh my God,” the former resident said.

With September fast approaching, the fleeing residents are also concerned about their children and their preparations for the new school term, as they fear the impact of further displacement and the gruesome experiences on their educational advancement.

Deputy commissioner of police in charge of crime Fitz Bailey last month told the Observer that the police were not aware of a death list, but said they were investigating the various murders. He said the police, up to that time, had taken five people into custody in relation to an incident at a Red Hills Road address in which two people were shot dead, and a subsequent murder in Clarendon.

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