Some criminals will get away, Supt saysMonday, May 10, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
Some criminals will never get caught, according to commanding officer of the St Andrew North Police Division, Superintendent Aaron Fletcher.
He said that proper policing continues to be hampered, as criminals are largely undetectable because of a long-existing issue of “migrating and transient” criminals, going across borders and different police divisions to discreetly execute acts of crime.
“The man from St James will take a man from St Andrew North who will do a shooting or murder or robbery and then the favour is returned. And then they cannot be so easily identified because sometimes the police just get a description. And so, some purveyors of a criminal act will never be identified because they are unknown to the persons in the community,” Fletcher told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.
Fletcher said police officers now need to improve their game to move in tandem with or stay one step ahead of thugs. This, he said, wasn't the case 10 to 15 years ago.
“A contemporary police officer will have to be well-equipped and smarter. A greater level of learning and education will become a necessity for success in policing. Criminals are smart and are getting smarter. They want to avoid and avert recognition or identification and conviction. And so, they import supporters or import persons from other jurisdictions to come into their space to assist in executing their criminal activities,” he added.
But this isn't unique to St Andrew North. Superintendent Kirk Ricketts, commanding officer for St Andrew South, told the Observer that the issue of migratory criminals is one of many elements that aids the festering of the crime situation in the division.
“Anything that can affect a division affects St Andrew South. We have persons coming in from other areas to either hide out or to commit criminal acts. One of the things you will find is that these criminals and gangsters, they tend to exchange services,” Ricketts said.
And as such, the police are left in a confounding puzzle trying to track these men, he added.
“It makes it difficult for the police. It's not like it's a large geographical space. This street is warring the next street and houses are attached. The criminals know each other… some of them are relatives. So when they bring somebody from outside, they do it deliberately to obfuscate the issue. The very fact that it makes it difficult for law enforcement is why they do it.”
As at May 7, the St Andrew South Division has seen a massive increase in both murders and shootings when compared to the corresponding period last year. There have been 70 murders and shootings; a 25 per cent and a 30 per cent increase, respectively.
Ricketts reiterated that there were various pieces at play now disturbing the peace.
“We have our own home-grown issues as it relates to criminals who were born and grown in the space and are engaging in criminal activities. That situation would've made it conducive for a migratory element, because if you have a space that is conducive to criminality, what you'll find is that persons will be coming from other spaces to hide out in this space.”
Some frustrated residents have said that the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, curfew restrictions and zones of special operations (ZOSOs) weren't mighty enough to shield the division from bloodshed.
One woman, who requested anonymity, said she had to abandon her home of 12 years in Rome, off Maxfield Avenue earlier this year. Association or not, she said, one is a target, based on where they live.
“Me did have free light and water and me haffi run go find somewhere weh me haffi a pay how much money. You couldn't go certain areas. Dem no care if yuh innocent or if yuh involved. A nuff innocent people me see dem kill,” the woman said.
However, a “strong” Christian in the community told the Observer that the crime situation hasn't affected the attendance of members of his church. This, he contended, is because only people who are associated with hoodlums seem to be targeted.
“What I recognised most of the times is that those who they do attack are persons connected to persons who are in gangs or groups. I am not able to say they are just randomly shooting persons,” he said.
“So, what happens is once you're associated with any of those persons who are targeted, you are targeted. One of my members' relatives was killed. And based on what they are saying, he wasn't involved in anything. But some friends that he might have had were.”
Further, Fletcher holds that a criminal migrating is possible, because relationships are being nurtured in correctional facilities. Instead of rehabilitation, there is the recruitment of allies, he said.
“In our penal system, players in the criminal underworld build relationships and they network for greater efficiency. In St Andrew North, for example, a criminal will spend some time at the Horizon Adult Correctional Centre and forge a relationship with someone from, let us say St James or Hanover.”
As at May 7, St Andrew North recorded 15 murders, a 52 per cent decrease when compared to the corresponding period last year. There have also been 16 shootings tabulated, 18 down from last year.
Despite admitting to being somewhat confined by the pandemic, Fletcher has credited “a significant downward trend in major crimes” to increased operational policing, by way of operational activities, community based intervention and social intervention.
“There are things that we had planned to be executed, but due to the spike in the numbers relative to the pandemic. But in 2020, we had a runaway situation where major crimes, violent crimes, murders and shootings skyrocketed in the division. By mid-February, the division was positioned at the top, leading in the incidents of murders and shootings in Jamaica. And then that would've resulted in all eyes being focused on the division,” he recalled.
Coming from that, Fletcher added, “I think we may have the largest nominal decline in the incidents of murders and shootings. We are much better placed this year than last year. The levels of reduction we are now benefiting from are the significant point to note at this time.”
He said that some of the areas specifically targeted include “the troubled communities of Red Hills Road, 100 Lane, Park Lane, 100 Sunrise, Ackee Walk, Cassava Piece.”
“This is building out relationships with the people and engaging them in conversations, having discussions with them about other prospects and outcomes, and grabbing their attention, particularly the attention of the young males, teenagers and young adults who are primary players in the criminal activities,” Fletcher said.
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