MONTEGO BAY, St James — St James recorded three murders in the space of 24 hours on Friday, pushing its murder tally to 31 — an average of over one killing per day — since the start of the year. The parish is leading the police divisions across the island in homicides.
Friday's bloodletting featured the gunslaying of 22-year-old labourer Ronald Barnes, a motorcyclist otherwise called Chicken of Mount Carey. Reports are that about 8:30 am Barnes was driving a motorcycle on the Mount Carey roadway when he was peppered with bullets by unknown assailants. He died instantly.
Barnes' death came hours after a man was shot and killed in downtown Montego Bay. He has been identified as 41-year-old Miguel “Rubbers” Christie of a Bottom Pen, Glendevon, address in the parish. According to the police, about 6:55 pm, Christie was entering his car on Embassy Place when he was shot multiple times in the upper body. He was pronounced dead at hospital.
By afternoon, an unidentified man was stabbed to death in the busy Montego Bay Transportation Centre. Based on initial reports from alleged eyewitnesses, the unidentified man was walking in the centre when another man walked up and stabbed him several times. The wielder of the knife then ran from the scene, eluding transport operators who attempted to apprehend him. He was wearing a long-sleeved red shirt, black pants and a black pair of what appeared to be Clarks shoes.
The killings come a day after Security Minister Dr Horace Chang addressed concerns regarding the uptick of murders in the parish.
“St James is in a bad state now,” Dr Chang told reporters after the Salt Spring Primary School Safe Passage handover ceremony in St James on Thursday afternoon.
Dr Chang noted that despite special deployment of members of the security forces the bloodletting in the parish has continued to spike, which he cites as a trend that emerged in January.
“By some peculiarity, right after Christmas there always seems to be some kind of uptick, and although there are special deployments we see that homicide moves,” he shared.
“Unfortunately, there seems to be an uptick in January and then you seem to level off, and hopefully we can keep it down. That's the situation that we are in. St James is in a bad state now. First of all, its [murder tally] pretty much the same as last year — not to make an excuse or any rationalisation, but the numbers are near to last year when there was less focus because of COVID, and St James has been looking at a number of approaches in the area.”
Statistics of serious crimes from the Jamaica Constabulary Force indicate that up to January 26 the St James police recorded 25 murders, which is seven more than the 18 reported over the corresponding period last year.
The murders continue to mount in St James despite two zones of special operation (ZOSOs) — in Norwood and Mount Salem; the presence of a Rapid Response Team and a motorcycle police squad; and recent special deployments of members of the security forces.
Dr Chang, however, noted that the police are now looking to target known violence producers.
“The police are looking at strategic changes which I am aware of but I can't go into the details. I am not an operational person nor am I familiar with the details, but I know the principle involved redeploys the men to apprehend the various individual groups who are known to be violence producers,” Dr Chang said.
“It is proving challenging because while they [murders] are gang related, the gangs are organised differently in today's situation in that lotto scamming, advance credit fraud is the source of funding and there are many more centres of activity in the gang. Small groups that have enough weapons to cause problems and then they work more [like that] of an alliance rather than an overall gang. So, disrupting a gang is no longer the easy way to stop the bloodshed. You have to go after each individual.”
The security minister is also deputy prime minister and Member of Parliament for St James North Western.