Meeting planned to address Santa Cruz crime surge

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Meeting planned to address Santa Cruz crime surge

BY GARFIELD MYERS
Editor-at-large
South/Central Bureau
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, May 18, 2020

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BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth — The St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation plans to urgently organise a “consultation” involving the police, business leaders, political representatives, and community leaders in Santa Cruz to discuss a sharp rise in armed robberies there.

“I am committed to getting it done as soon as possible,” Black River mayor and chairman of the municipal corporation Derrick Sangster told the Jamaica Observer.

Crime in St Elizabeth, and specifically in Santa Cruz, was a major talking point at the monthly meeting of the corporation last Thursday with Councillor Christopher Williams (Jamaica Labour Party, Santa Cruz Division), supported by colleagues across party lines, urging decisive action.

Arguing that it was obvious that the criminals were organised and closely watching the police and business community, Williams said the police should come up with “new strategies” and “a different approach” to fighting crime in Santa Cruz, which is St Elizabeth's leading commercial area.

Williams noted that the criminals were carrying out their operations in broad daylight in crowded areas, and apparently had “no fear” of the security forces. “Is almost every week now,” he lamented.

Chief of police in St Elizabeth, Superintendent Samuel Morgan, assured the councillors that new strategies were being devised, evidence of which would be on show in short order.

Morgan said he was in full agreement with the proposal for a meeting with all stakeholders.

In response to questions, Morgan said arrangements for establishment, in St Elizabeth, of the anti-crime national surveillance system, Jamaica Eye, were well “in train”. The political capital Black River as well as Santa Cruz would be equipped first “and then Junction”, he said.

Morgan told journalists following the meeting that since the start of May, up to last Thursday, there had been five robberies carried out by men armed with guns in St Elizabeth four of those occurred in Santa Cruz. He said financial institutions and retail establishments were targeted by criminals.

Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) statistics up to May 10 show that since the start of the year all major crimes have seen increases in St Elizabeth, apart from rape and larceny.

Murders had moved up to 12 from nine when compared to the same period in the previous year, shooting had increased to 16 from five last year, robbery increased to 32 from 31, break-ins moved to 49 from 43. Rape was down by one to seven, while there were no reports of larceny compared to four for the similar period last year.

Councillor Audie Myers (People's National Party, Siloah Division) suggested that a shortcoming in crime-fighting in Santa Cruz and the wider St Elizabeth was the failure of people to adequately protect their businesses using available security arrangements.

He said some large, profitable business operations were too “loose and open” and the police couldn't be expected to be everywhere.

Councillor Sangster (JLP, Mountainside Division) later told the Observer that this was a matter that was likely to be raised at the Santa Cruz consultation.

Councillor Everton Fisher (PNP, Balaclava Division) told the corporation meeting that despite the problems with crime, the police in St Elizabeth were doing a “tremendous job” with little resources, and in the context of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fisher, the former mayor of Black River, urged fellow political representatives to encourage citizens to be “vigilant” in helping the police, especially during this time of crisis.

Councillor Richard Solomon (JLP, New Market Division), who wore a transparent face shield to the meeting, noted that the recommended wearing of masks in recent weeks as a result of the health crisis was making life more difficult for the police and easier for criminals.

The criminals, he said, could now blend in without fear of raising suspicions, whereas, until quite recently, the sight of someone wearing a mask would have raised red flags for people. It was in that context, he suggested, law-abiding citizens should consider wearing transparent face shields.

With bars set for reopening along restricted lines tomorrow, after weeks of shutdown because of COVID-19, Councillor Layton Smith (PNP, Myersville Division) warned that the police will have to be on the alert.

“We all know that criminals love [to] target bars,” he said.


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