Goodwill towards the police must be protected at all costs
Up to December 2, murders in St Elizabeth since the start of 2023 stood at 29 compared to 38 for the same period last year.
Then, within days, came news that over a 48-hour period there were six murders in the traditionally low-crime south-central parish.
Such twists have happened before.
And, as has been the case previously in St Elizabeth, the local police command responded by shutting down entertainment events, for which permits must be granted by local authorities.
The big difficulty now is that the period of shutdown is for 30 days, encompassing Christmas and New Year. Six north-eastern St Elizabeth communities — Goshen, Balaclava, Oxford, Union, Content, and Elim — are affected.
Inevitably, there has been local consternation since the ban will put a damper on commerce for local small business people and entertainment event promoters.
Also, of course, for hard-working people in those deep-rural farming communities, it also means well-earned merriment and relaxation over the Yuletide season — anticipated for months — are now significantly downscaled.
Yet, locals also recognise that the police must act.
Hence, the relatively muted response from former mayor of Black River and chairman of the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation Mr Everton Fisher (People’s National Party — PNP) even, as in one breath, he referred to the police action as “draconian”.
Said Mr Fisher, who is the councillor for the Balaclava Division: “Essentially, we have to support the police in whatever initiative … to treat with crime, but for me it is very disappointing …
“In Balaclava there are a number of parties and promotions that have to be cancelled. People have to move parties as far as Evergreen, which is at the Manchester border …”
Councillor Donovan Pagon (PNP) in the neighbouring Braes River Division was more sympathetic to the police action even while describing it as “…so unfortunate…”
According to Mr Pagon, “One has to understand the police position. We don’t want any recurrence of this murder situation. This thing has to stop and our area, my division, is normally… very peaceful…”
Of course, at bottom line, the real reason measures such as entertainment bans happen at all is the chronic shortage of police personnel to adequately cover traditionally low-crime areas of the country.
With the best will in the world, police commanders in such regions find themselves between a rock and a hard place when there are crime surges such as occurred in St Elizabeth late last week.
Obviously, enhanced emergency measures in several other parishes and urban police divisions mean security force personnel resources across the country are already stretched thin.
It has been argued that in some cases, those very same emergency measures caused criminals to drift to low-crime regions in the first place.
All that aside, it seems to us that the police high command should tread carefully.
Inevitably, we believe, actions such as was taken in sections of north-eastern St Elizabeth can lead to resentment among those who feel they are being punished through no fault of their own. And that, in a parish where anecdotal evidence suggests goodwill towards the police — which all agree is vital — is at a much higher level than many other places across the country.
Under no circumstances should that goodwill be lost, or even diminished.