Joy in Franklin Town as police station nears completionMonday, April 26, 2021
BY JASON CROSS
There is general excitement in the Franklin Town community of central Kingston.
That's because police and residents alike, who cited the absence of a proper police facility as a contributing factor to conflicts between rival gangs from Franklin Town and Dunkirk, believe tensions will ease because of the construction of a new and bigger police station at the intersection of Wellington Street and Franklin Avenue.
Cops had been operating from that location but were growing increasingly frustrated at the dilapidated state of the old building. In times of war, very limited resources were available there to accommodate an increase in manpower.
With the new station, which stakeholders expect to be completed within the next two months, Superintendent Tomilee Chambers, who is head of the Kingston Eastern Police which has jurisdiction over the Franklin Town station, said with a barracks area being added, additional personnel would be assigned and the area would be available to them in case they are required to spend the night.
Currently, the Franklyn Town Police Station temporarily operates from a property on Cumberland Avenue in the community, which was made possible through a deal with the owner of the premises. Superintendent Chambers pointed out that even after the construction on the Franklyn Avenue project, the police could move to rent the building, as it has proven to be a buffer between the rivaling thugs.
Chambers said the Franklin Town community in 2020 experienced intense warfare, forcing residents to live on edge and cower in fear. But since she took over responsibility for the division from Superintendent Victor Hamilton in October, there has been a reduction in violent flare-ups and murders.
The project is being funded by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), through a collaboration with the Ministry of National Security and its Rebuild, Overhaul and Construction, geared towards improving police stations across Jamaica.
“We are very excited about the new Franklyn Town Police Station, to know that we will have completion in another month and a half or could be before. The citizens of the community are also excited to know they will be getting a new station and also they have received a new patrol vehicle assigned to Franklin Town. The construction in the community is also providing employment.
“There will be more police officers, more police intervention, a better partnership with the police and the citizens and we will be able to patrol the community even better with more police personnel at the new station. This will make us be able to station three times as many police personnel than we did before. There will be a barracks area, a reception area, the station commander's office and a room for persons who come to give statements.
“They relocated to 3 Cumberland Avenue, at the border of Dunkirk and Franklin Town. We might be thinking of holding that location because that location has been very helpful to us, knowing that it is the borderline. Based on the cry from the citizens, they said it would be nice to have a post remain there and that is where the station should have been for the longest while, because it is on the borderline of Dunkirk and Franklin Town and that is where most of the activities between violence producers always take place. From there, we will be able to create a buffer zone between Dunkirk and Franklin Town,” she told the Jamaica Observer on Friday.
She added that since the start of 2021, the community has only recorded one murder.
“The murders were extreme, sometimes two a day. The area used to be very tense, but now, people are moving around. There is a calm restored to the area,” she said.
People's National Party councillor for the Allman Town Division, in which Franklin Town falls, Charmaine Daniels, described the construction as her “pet project” and shared that the idea of the new station manifested around four years ago.
“Four years ago, the residents of Franklin Town at the umbrella organisation meeting, which consists of the Franklin Town police consultative committee, Franklin Town Community Development Committee (SDC), the Franklin Town Police Youth Club and members of the church fraternity.
“At the meeting the residents were very vocal about not having a community centre and having to be using the Franklin Town Primary School. Also, the Franklin Town Police Station, at that time, was in a bad condition. Thus, we had consultations with community members and the other community organisations within Franklin Town. We invited the present SDC officer at the time to come and facilitate the discussion as to what is the priority for Franklin Town.
“At that facilitation meeting, several things came up as to what we wanted for the community, but the number one thing that stood out was a new building for the Franklin Town Police Station that would comprise of a space for community meetings, a guard room, a proper office for the sub-officer, [and] proper living quarters for police officers who have to stay over. It was then that we arranged a community workshop, facilitated by the then SDC officer to lead the charge.
“With the present space, we realised that we could have an L-shaped building to facilitate all of the above. We decided we would apply to JSIF to facilitate this project, which we did. It was successful. Now, we have reached like around 80 per cent of the building. We will be having a masterpiece in the Franklin Town community. On top of that, part of the original structure brick design will remain to showcase the historical Franklin Town Police Station.
The Sunday Observer visited the construction site recently and saw where workmen, mostly residents from the community, moved at pace to meet the month-and-a-half to two months projection for the completion.
Last year, residents lamented to journalists that the conflicts in the community made it unsuitable to raise children.
When the Sunday Observer visited the community, elderly resident Lola Lee welcomed the construction and expansion project at the station.
“I feel good for them because dem do dem job when dem round here. Dem nuh joke round here. A good police dem man. Dem nuh turn weh nobody. Dem deserve the new station. Di old station wasn't so wonderful,” she said.
Another elderly resident who did not want to give her name said, “It's not that it wasn't nice, but it did just waa upgrade, so now they are upgrading it so we can feel comfortable with it. It will benefit us a lot because you will have more police coming in.”
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