Manchester business leader urges vigilance as parish tops break-ins and robberies
SPENCE-JOHNSON… we should see a reduction in the break-ins and crimes that have been on the upsurge in the parish (Photo: Gregory Bennett)

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce Simone Spence-Johnson is calling on residents and business people in this south-central town to be vigilant and connect to the country's national surveillance system, JamaicaEye, to help combat the spate of robberies and break-ins here.

"As business owners we are just taking extra precautions to manage our property. We know that the time, especially for the month of September with back-to-school and all of the expenses, it's a tough time," she told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday.

"I am encouraging our members to come on board, share the [closed-circuit television] feed that you have so that we really can keep the communities safe," added Spence-Johnson as she pointed to the importance of JamaicaEye.

Her comments came after statistics released by the Jamaica Constabulary Force up to September 17 showed that Manchester was the worst police division in the major crime categories of robberies and break-ins. The parish has recorded 82 robberies since the start of the year, in comparison to 65 for the corresponding period last year.

Head of the Manchester police Superintendent Shane McCalla

While there was slight reduction in the number of break-ins reported to the police — 125 cases since the start of this year compared to 129 for the corresponding period last year — the parish remains a leader across the island.

Head of the Manchester Police Superintendent Shane McCalla said his team started a 90-day anti-robbery reduction strategy in August, targeting the towns of Mandeville, Christiana, Spalding, and areas surrounding the towns.

He said the police have made arrests and seized illegal firearms with the most recent happening in Spalding at the Manchester/Clarendon border shortly before 6:00 pm last Saturday.

"The police as part of the anti-robbery initiative were on foot patrol in the Spalding police area when they intercepted a man driving a motorcycle… He was signalled to stop. A search was conducted and a nine-millimetre pistol was taken from his waistband. Investigations have commenced and charges will be laid," added McCalla.

Spence-Johnson said members of the business community have been taking extra precautions with their properties "… and speaking to our employees about the different scenarios that could occur and how they can keep themselves safe".

The chamber president commended the effort of Superintendent McCalla in the anti-robbery strategy while pointing out that he took control of Manchester two months ago.

"It is early days, but based on his approach and presentation to us that he is taking, which is research-based, to guide his strategies, I think it is a good look. I really do believe that if he can go ahead and execute these strategies and the plans that he has in place then he will be successful and we will see some benefits," said Spence-Johnson.

"He [McCalla] was quick to point out that Mandeville is very fluid and he is taking it on a case-by-case basis, which I do believe is very important… Every area is different and he wants to concentrate on controlling the [town] centres, but also not losing the surrounding areas," she added.

She believes that the police's effort will, over time, restore safety and security in Manchester.

"We should see a reduction in the break-ins and crimes that have been on the upsurge in the parish," declared Spence-Johnson.

BY KASEY WILLIAMS Observer staff reporter kaseyw@jamaicaobserver.com

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