Robbers prey on downtown Kingston vendors

Robbers prey on downtown Kingston vendors

Police say reports of violence in area false

Observer staff reporter

Saturday, February 06, 2021

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VENDORS at the Coronation Market in downtown Kingston are growing frustrated over frequent robberies, despite the police making an effort to increase their visibility in the market district.

At the same time, during a tour of the market district with Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson yesterday, vendors told the Jamaica Observer that misleading voice notes being circulated on social media about violence in the market district since the shooting death of a 'community leader' has caused a drop in business as a number of people have been avoiding the area. The drop in sales and the almost daily robberies, they said, have been making life difficult for them.

“Mi sister sell [down here] and gunman just come een and seh 'Gimmie yuh bib', and dem tek weh har bib wid all a di money. She deh yah from Wednesday night and a sell until Saturday night and dem come fi di bib. Robbery a gwaan fi true. Every week, everyday dem rob people. Mi feel like with more police we will be more safe. Pon top a dat, from yesterday [Thursday], nobody not coming down here because dem hear voice notes and everything bout pure gunshot downtown,” a female vendor said.

General Anderson told journalists that he plans to organise greater uniformed presence inside the Cornonation Market and possibly transform an old Digicel location there into a police post. Anderson said there will soon be an influx of motorcycle police personnel who will be on constant patrol throughout the area. The commissioner, at the same time, encouraged members of the public to go out and shop downtown and to ignore misleading voice notes and videos circulating on the Internet about violence in the area.

The police chief said last year police were able to arrest about 80 people for robberies in the market district space and said with the help of increased covert and uniformed police, more arrests should come.

“The police will soon be able to respond quickly around here. The response will be motorbike based, so they will be able to move through the traffic and the crowds. Saturday [today] is a big market day, so hopefully we will get our vendors out here to sell and the people will feel safe. Clearly the vendors have a very good relationship with the police who actually operate in the market. It is just really to increase that capacity, use that relationship and build on it. They say things are slow and they largely see it as due to what is being said, rather than what actually is happening down there,” Anderson pointed out.

He continued: “Part of the reason I am down here is to get a first-hand view, but also to reassure people. There was a shooting incident last week and a couple reprisals. Two other people were shot right afterwards. That sort of thing creates fear, but there were some voice notes going around about shootings down here which were not true. The other night we took a ride along just to show what was happening in downtown, Kingston. It is one thing for us to say, but I think it is important for the media to carry the message as well. We will fix it as far as the policing aspect is concerned.”

Vendor, Prudence Francis was happy to see Anderson walk though the market, as she felt it would serve as a positive message to members of the public who still are fearful about shopping downtown.

“The rumours are affecting our business badly. Wednesday I was home and somebody called me from upper St Andrew, seh dem hear how things a gwaan bad down here. Because me live a town, dem a ask me. Me affi seh nothing naa gwaan and no killing naa gwaan. Why dem a carry false news and a seh dat? When me come a town yesterday [Thursday], mi realise seh di news kick een and dem a carry di thing like how it nuh go, and the buyers dem scared. Di buyers not coming because dem hear seh things a gwaan inna di market, but nothing naa gwaan inna di market. The market calm and nice. I don't hear a gunshot from I come a town Wednesday night. Di information they are carrying out is wrong information. Me have issues because mi not selling anything. From Thursday I dont sell $5,000 worth of goods,” Francis said.

One woman, who declined to give her name, encouraged local newspapers to ensure they put in bold on their front pages that “Nothing naa gwaan a West Kingston,” so customers should feel free to come and shop.

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