'Caught in the middle'
Criminals from parishes under SOEs targeting Manchester, says police chief
Head of the Manchester police Superintendent Shane McCalla addressing Thursday's monthly meeting of the Manchester Municipal Corporation. (Photo: Kasey Williams)

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Police here say states of emergency (SOEs) in neighbouring parishes have led to a migration of criminals and the recent emergence of a syndicate plaguing businesses and citizens in this south-central parish.

Head of the Manchester police Superintendent Shane McCalla told Thursday's monthly meeting of the local municipality that the SOEs, which were declared last Tuesday in eight parishes including Clarendon and St Ann, have created a "balloon effect" with armed robberies on the rise in Manchester.

"…We can't be everywhere at the same time, so I am going to ask people to implore business people to adopt a more security conscious [strategy] especially going into Christmas," he said.

"We are expecting there might be some occurrences [armed robberies] like this going into the Christmas, especially being caught in the middle of two states of emergency. [Hence] the balloon effect, we are going to be finding them [criminals] coming into Manchester, so we have upped our cross-border collaboration with Clarendon and St Ann," McCalla added.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, a group of gunmen held up and robbed gas stations, lottery outlets, bars and a restaurant in Cross Keys and Knockpatrick, both south of Mandeville.

McCalla told the Jamaica Observer mid-afternoon Thursday that during an operation in Clarendon an illegal firearm and a rented motor car were seized and two suspects have been taken into custody in relation to the robberies.

McCalla said the numerous roads in parts of Manchester often used by criminals to elude the police are posing a challenge.

"Be mindful that Manchester, based on how it is structured geographically, there are a lot of slip roads, for example, the mining routes and so forth, we can't provide 24/7 type of presence on those roads… and from the Spalding end into Trelawny, St Ann and Clarendon, those pose some challenges," he said.

"We have been putting systems in place to assist and ensure that we try to mitigate those [as much] as possible, but the recent robberies, those are [linked] to a syndicate operating with persons from the parish and persons in St Ann and Clarendon," he added.

McCalla said crime in Manchester is being driven up by lottery scammers.

"There is strong [and] very high proliferation of lotto scamming in the parish, so it should not be alarming to [councillors as to] why you are going to see a change in the trajectory in terms of your crime trends in the parish," he said.

"Intelligence suggests that a large number of the unemployed youths in Manchester are actively participating in this and a number of the murders that we have observed when you analyse the data, a number of these murders they are coming out of conflict over the sharing of the spoils coming out of lotto scamming," he added.

He reiterated that lottery scamming is a major factor in the acquisition of illegal firearms.

"Another negative spill-off that Manchester is facing and is going to face is that with illicit money that is gained from lotto scamming, it is going right back into the procurement of illegal weapons," he said.

He added that lottery scammers are seeking safe haven in remote and quieter communities where there is internet access.

"These people settle and nestle in the quieter communities, because those communities are more than often not on the radar as some of our more problematic spaces," he said.

McCalla told councillors that cases of aggravated assaults have been decreasing.

"The assaults where a man draws a cutlass, fist and fist, thump down a man, throw a big stone, that has trended down significantly for this year," he said.

He added that the use of guns have become more prevalent in domestic disputes resulting in murders.

"What we are seeing is that a lot of the murders that we are experiencing in the parish are not gang related. They are interpersonal conflicts and because there is an ease of access to firearms more than the previous year, every argument, every disagreement… The guns come into play. Those domestic disputes that used to be handled in a different way now play out with the use of the gun," he said.

He added that drive-by shootings have become more frequent in Manchester.

"These you would normally see in the Corporate Area, St James and Clarendon, but I have said before where you have money, you are going to have guns," McCalla said.

Kasey Williams

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