Police to ramp up covert operatives in Negril

Police to ramp up covert operatives in Negril

Observer writer

Thursday, January 16, 2020

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NEGRIL, Westmoreland — Commanding officer for the Westmoreland Police Division Superintendent Robert Gordon says the police will be ramping up covert operations across the resort town of Negril, where there is a resurgence of tourist harassment, including the sale of illegal drugs.

“What we are also going to do, going forward… we would have started, but we are going to enhance what we would have, to have more covert police operatives within the beach area there,” Superintendent Gordon told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

This follows the weekend arrest and charge of a man caught with a quantity of ganja on the famous seven-mile Negril beach.

Superintendent Gordon said the man, whose name was not released, is a repeat offender who escaped a criminal record despite being charged, taken before the courts, paying a fine and being released back on the streets.

“He himself would have been arrested on a number of occasions before. It has become a habit for him to be engaging in those activities,” Superintendent Gordon stressed.

The superintendent of police further explained how individuals involved in the trade avoids a criminal record.

“What they do [is] they will keep the satchel [of drugs] elsewhere, and then they go out with small amounts, get rid of that, and then move back and forth,” the senior officer said.

Under the amended Dangerous Drugs Act 2015, it is not a criminal offence to have in one's possession two or less ounces of ganja. However, it is a criminal offence to be in possession of over two ounces of ganja. Individuals caught can be arrested, charged, tried in court, and, if found guilty, the individual can be ordered to pay a fine or be sentenced to imprisonment, or both. The conviction is also recorded on the individual's criminal record.

Superintendent Gordon said people are taking advantage of the law.

“The amount that he is carrying at any one point does not exceed the two ounces that he can get a criminal record or anything like that for. So, they are taking advantage, so to speak, of the decriminalisation of the two ounces and under amount,” argued Superintendent Gordon.

The recent arrest follows a letter written to stakeholders in Negril by a regular visitor to the island, with a photograph of the accused and video attached.

The Observer obtained a copy of the letter, which stated: “We often visit Jamaica at least once per year; however, this trip was different. The excess harassment, constant sale of every drug imaginable, was overwhelming. We could not walk for more than two minutes without someone offering us drugs,” expressed the writer.

“I am sure you are fully aware [that] the beach is overrun with pimps, prostitutes, hustlers, and drug dealers. Dealers are now riding bikes on the beach, three to four times a day, selling drugs,” it continued.

Additionally, there are complaints of cars driving on the beach, promoting parties, as well as a man walking around on the beach with numerous puppies that are said to be suffering from malnutrition, with telephone cords tied around their necks. The man reportedly utilises 'this sympathy tactic' to solicit money from tourists to feed the animals.

Superintendent Gordon told the Observer that he was not aware of this development and promised to have the matter investigated.

President of the Negril Chamber of Commerce Richard Wallace told a recent chamber meeting that harassment of the visitors in the resort town could damage the tourism product.

“I don't think people realise the damage that can do to our product every single day by these people who think they are eating a food or they are surviving,” he told the meeting.

“It is only a few people who are causing real damage to the product and I can't understand, for the life of me, why they can't take these people off the strip [Negril beach],” Wallace said.

He said the letter written by the visitor has been copied to Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, the Office of the Prime Minister, executive director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund Dr Carey Wallace, and Member of Parliament for Westmoreland Western Dr Wykeham McNeil, who is also the Opposition spokesman on tourism.

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