Shop and house break-ins surge near Munro College

Shop and house break-ins surge near Munro College

... but although numbers up in Potsdam, St Elizabeth remains low on crime

South Central Bureau

Sunday, July 29, 2018

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Police and locals are expressing concern about a surge in shop and housebreakings in Potsdam and neighbouring communities of south-eastern St Elizabeth this year.

Councillor for the Malvern Division Donald Simpson told the Jamaica Observer that since May this year there have been a “minimum” of ten such crimes in Potsdam and neighbouring communities, including Rose Hall and Port Sea.

Using figures specific to the Malvern police area, chief of police in St Elizabeth, Superintendent Catherine Lord, told the Sunday Observer that since February of this year, “there had been eight shop breakings and four housebreakings”, most in the Potsdam region.

The latest incident occurred on the night of Saturday, July 14 to early hours of Sunday July 15, when thieves broke into the New Look Club at Potsdam, just east of the Munro College campus, stealing two poker boxes and quantities of cigarettes and liquor. Loss was estimated to be about $230,000.

Local people including Simpson and the police all believe the crimes are locally instigated, even if perpetrators are getting “outside” help.

“Is the same people from right here doing it,” one man told the Sunday Observer. Locals told the Sunday Observer that shop breakers appeared to be more focused on stealing poker boxes than anything else.

Lord said police had stepped up patrols in the Malvern police area, including Potsdam, and she renewed calls for residents to tell the police what they know, including abnormal happenings and new arrivals within communities.

She noted that because shop break-ins and housebreakings take place under the cover of darkness, while residents sleep, police are forced to rely on fingerprints — a strategy which often does not provide positive identification.

She said police were paying special attention to “one or two persons” who had returned to the community after serving sentences for break-ins. There was one arrest in late May when one man was found with stolen goods, she said.

Lord said the upsurge in Potsdam and neighbouring areas was particularly noteworthy because the Malvern Police Division “was usually very low on crime”, compared to more urban centres such as the commercially oriented Santa Cruz and the parish capital, Black River.

To highlight the point, Lord noted that since the start of the year, up to July 27, there had been eight robberies reported in the Santa Cruz police area and 15 in Black River. For the same period there had been 23 shop break-ins and housebreakings in Black River police area and 16 in Santa Cruz.

St Elizabeth remains among Jamaica's more “low-crime” parishes. Up to July 27, there had been nine murders in the parish since the start of the year, compared to 14 for the same period last year, Lord said.

The St Elizabeth police chief spoke of growing concern about irresponsible use of the roads, especially by motorcyclists many of whom refuse to wear helmets. Since the start of the year, there have been 15 deaths from motor vehicle accidents in St Elizabeth up to July 27 — eleven of those dying were motorcyclists and most were not wearing helmets, Lord said.

“We want to say to everyone that it is not just about police seizing bikes. It's about people taking steps to protect themselves, people seeing themselves as valuable and acting accordingly to protect themselves,” she said.

Lord said that as an overall strategy, police were stepping up patrols and activity throughout the parish, with particular attention to urban centres.

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