Not enough cops
MONTEGO BAY, St James â€” Mayor of Montego Bay Councillor Leeroy Williams has pointed to the combination of a hiring freeze and insufficient police personnel as the reason for a failed fight to keep the city’s streets free from vendors. The move against the sellers was a major plank in Operation Restore Paradise but the mayor is adamant that the larger initiative has not failed.
During a media briefing this week, Williams conceded that the planned zero-tolerance approach to vending on St James Street was “not happening to the extent that we would want”.
He explained that a shortage of staff from the municipal corporation and the police force was hobbling the effort.
“We are woefully short of personnel from the municipal corporation perspective, and I’m referring to our municipal police; we are short,” he remarked.
“Because of the Government’s structural adjustment in the public sector, we are not allowed to employ anyone presently. But it is our intention, as soon as we are given the green light by the Government, to employ persons to sort of step up our enforcement capabilities,” the mayor added.
Launched on August 15, 2022 ‘Restoring Paradise, A Public Order Reset’ was initially rolled out for two weeks. Based on its success, a decision was taken to expand the initiative which is a collaboration between the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch, St James Municipal Corporation, Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the Transport Authority. The collaboration between the various agencies was a response to concerns raised by residents and local business interests who saw public disorder as a growing problem.
In addition to street vending, the initiative was aimed at targeting rogue taxi operators, tax dodgers, people with illegal light and water connections, as well as those who continue to violate health and safety standards.
Asked directly if the failure to curb street vending signalled a failure, Mayor Williams pointed to the gains made.
“I think it has been successful so far; we just need the personnel to maintain it,” he told the Jamaica Observer on Monday. “I think there is improvement, in that persons can at least walk on the sidewalks in downtown Montego Bay.”
He commiserated with the JCF’s challenges.
“They, too, are short on staff and personnel. Sometimes, there are areas that we want them to cover but because of the whole situation with crime, they cannot give us the kind of full support we would need,” he explained.
This, he noted, is most apparent on the weekends when the municipal police are not at work.
“If you should come in town on a Sunday, it’s a bit chaotic on the street because of the lack of enforcement,” he bemoaned to the Jamaica Observer .
Williams was however keen to stress that, despite the challenges, he believes Operation Restore Paradise is a necessary move to maintain order within the city.