MANDEVILLE, Manchester – Police here say they are responding with intelligence-driven operations to concerns about migrant criminals committing crimes in the south-central parish.
Speaking at last Thursday's monthly meeting of the local municipality, head of the Manchester police Superintendent Lloyd Darby said two murders, three robberies, three break-ins and a shooting incident have occurred in Manchester since the start of the year.
The shooting incident, which happened in St Toolies, resulted in a man being injured with police intelligence suggesting that it stemmed from another incident in Foga Road, Clarendon.
“We continue to seek to protect our borders, because we realise that some of these incidents really stem from neighbouring parishes,” said Darby.
He said the Manchester police have been working with neighbouring police divisions as criminals continue to network.
“The migration of criminals has always been a concern. We know that people meet when they are incarcerated and form relationships and bonds, so they go all over Jamaica… We are attacking [their network] in terms of intelligence and in terms of operations on our roads, which is a big part of how we police,” he explained.
Moreover, councillors from both political sides are worried about the trend.
Councillor for the Bellefield division (People's National Party) Mario Mitchell called on the police to increase their presence with dragnets.
He added that he believes there is coordination between criminals especially on southern parts of the Manchester/St Elizabeth border.
“The migration of criminals seems to be a concern and I would love some increase in police presence on our major thoroughfares. I remember when I used to come up Spur Tree [whether] late or early at nights, police had dragnets and I haven't seen them in the longest while,” he said.
Councillor for the Porus division (Jamaica Labour Party) Claudia Morant-Baker said she was shocked to have heard seven gunshots in her “backyard” in the St Toolies incident.
In response, Darby said the police's manpower is being challenged by officers contracting COVID-19.
“We continue to work with the reality of COVID-19. It is affecting the manpower at the station. As we speak, there are several [officers] who are in isolation or quarantine as a result of the virus,” he said.
He added that the police continue to enforce the provisions of the Disaster Risk Management Act.
“The deployment of police officers is impacted by the virus, but we continue internally to encourage our members to observe the protocols and to get vaccinated,” he said.
In reflecting on crime statistics for last year, Darby said 2021 was “a challenging year”.
“It was a year where we saw an increase in most of our seven categories of major crimes… There were 444 crimes committed compared to 361 for 2020,” he said.
There were 33 murders committed in 2021, the same as 2020. Shootings decreased by three with 32 recorded in comparison to 35 in 2020. Robberies saw an increase with 99 incidents compared to 74 and reported cases of rape increased with 21 compared to nine in 2020.
Further, Darby said in previous years more crimes were committed overall, with the highest being 654 in 2016.
“However, when we look at a trend in our crimes, for the past six years, from 2016 onward to 2021, we see where although we had an increase, the overall crimes for 2021, it was still the second-lowest period in that six years, so only 2020 had more than 2021, when we look at the crime trends,” Darby explained, adding that the 2020 lockdowns kept people indoors and resulted in less opportunity for “criminals to commit crime”.
Meanwhile, Darby said 20 illegal firearms were seized in 2021, four more than in 2020, whereas 34 stolen vehicles were recovered, mostly through the use of trackers.
“The swiftness with which the perpetrators were able to move the vehicles, it is as if they have a key or some sophisticated system that disables the alarm,” he said. “Some of the vehicles we were able to recover through tracking devices and that is a good method to protect your vehicle. We encourage people [who], having spent millions to purchase a vehicle, [to] spend a little more to protect it.”