ACP Powell bemoans 'governance issues' in MoBay

Observer West reporter

Thursday, March 08, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) commander for the state of public emergency in St James, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Ealan Powell, has condemned the use of a section of a gas station as a taxi stand in the hub of the commercial district in the city of Montego Bay, arguing that the operation is evidence of a local governance failure.

“We have places where taxis are parking which are no parking areas, but given permission by the city. Those are governance issues that have to be addressed. There is a structure, which is being used as a bus stop in a gas station; that is courting danger. Gas is so flammable that we can't afford to be having a bus stop in a gas station where taxis stop, awaiting passengers. Those are governance issues,” ACP Powell emphasised.

The senior police officer also attributed poor local governance to the prominence of illegal street vending, but was especially perplexed that some vendors have been allowed to abandon the Charles Gordon market to peddle their wares in the streets outside the facility.

“The Charles Gordon market is empty whilst all the vendors are on the street, just outside the market. That is providing chaos and if there's an incident that requires an emergency response, anybody who requires that response stands to perish,” said ACP Powell, a native of St James.

He was updating the Jamaica Observer West earlier this week on concerns expressed at a stakeholders' meeting hosted at the Freeport Police Station last week by the security forces.

Among those present at the meeting were representatives from the St James Fire Department, St James Public Health; St James Municipal Corporation, headed by its chairman, Councillor Homer Davis; the Jamaica Defence Force, the JCF, Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, National Works Agency, and the Transport Authority.

ACP Powell noted that crime has taken a nosedive in St James since the declaration of the state of public emergency.

He disclosed that since the start of the year 14 murders have been recorded in St James in comparison to 33 over the corresponding period last year.

He added that from January 18, when the state of public emergency was declared, four murders were recorded in the parish up to the end of February, which is a decline of 17, in comparison to the 21 recorded over the similar period last year.

In the meantime, the ACP said that the number of shootings recorded between January 1 and the end of February last year stood at 41, but the figure has dropped to 25 over the same period this year.

ACP Powell, however, strongly articulated that all hands are now needed on deck to restore order to the city.

“So we have to bring some order to the city and it is going to take all the entities, so that's what the stakeholders' meeting was all about, working together to improve public safety and security in the city.

ACP Powell, who at one stage headed the JCF's traffic division, also said that “robot” taxi operators are largely on the loose in the city, and fingered his colleagues as being also culpable in allowing public order to get out of hand.

“On the other hand, the police have to take some responsibilities, because the police must have a zero tolerance towards infringement of the law. That is not to say you are going to prosecute everybody, but every offence must be pointed out as people must know where they are doing wrong and where they are doing right. That is needed because what we have found is that the police are almost apathetic towards vending and 'roboting' and things like those,” he argued.

“That attitude has to change. We appeal to the people that it can't happen with the police alone, all the people in the parish must come together and say, Listen it's a new era in St James, and so we all have to work together.”

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