For decades the streets of central Kingston were playgrounds for many children who grew up in communities dubbed Tel Aviv, South Side, and Spoilers. But in recent days, instead of being able to play, the children have become victims of criminals.
Yesterday, the community buried a six-year-old girl who had been the victim of a gunshot wound less than one month ago, even as they mourned a 10-year-old girl who was fatally shot hours earlier.
Loved ones appeared gripped by grief at the funeral for six-year-old T'Morah McCallum, who was shot on December 6 when a round was discharged from a gun allegedly being prepared by a 55-year-old man who police believe to be a gunsmith.
T'Morah was laid to rest at Dovecot Memorial Park in St Catherine, and at the sight of her small casket a chorus of screams was heard from the mourners.
At the service T'Morah was described as a bright and vibrant child.
“You were a radiant soul… angels cried as she lay,” said one of T'Morah's cousins, Nickona Chung, as she visibly fought the urge to cry.
Sharing Chung's sentiment, a friend of the family, Thalian, recalled that the child loved to dance and make TikTok videos.
“She always deh on her tablet a do her little TikTok. Mi used to call her TikTok queen. But her parents always ensured that she focused on her book,” Thalian stated, noting that T'Morah had been awarded top student twice at St Aloysius Primary School.
But as the mourners remembered T'Morah, there was an even more sombre mood in the small community as news spread about the fatal shooting of 10-year-old Jezariah Tyrell yesterday morning at her house on Fleet Street.
The Kingston Central Police report that about 2:50 yesterday morning Jezariah and her relatives were asleep at home when a relative smelt gasoline and heard strange sounds on the roof.
The relative went to investigate and was pounced on by intruders, who attempted to gain entry to the house whilst firing at the occupants. During the gunfire, the 10-year-old was shot. She was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Yesterday, several residents in the police division, which has recorded 75 murders this year — a 47 per cent increase on the 51 recorded over the same time last year — told the Jamaica Observer that they are worried about the gang war which has plagued the community all year.
In the meantime, representatives of both sides of the political divide condemned the violence which has left at least five people dead since Christmas Day.
Imani Duncan-Price, the Opposition People's National Party caretaker for Kingston Central constituency, led the call for additional measures to end the bloodletting in the area.
In messages to Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang and Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson Duncan-Price said, “Please, I am begging you to work with the commissioner to implement a rapid and sound response to secure the ground for law-abiding people. While more security forces on the ground won't stop the war, it will cause a break in this spike and mayhem that has been unleashed in the communities.”
But, in a quick response, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of National Security Senator Matthew Samuda noted that there were no murders in the area while a state of emergency (SOE) was in place earlier this year, and argued that the SOE was one of the tools being used by the security forces to clamp down on marauding gangsters in areas such as central Kingston.
“The death of the little girl hurt me to the core. The crime threat now is different. The criminals have become more violent and they discharge their rounds faster. We have these gangsters who don't know how to use a gun, who run into somewhere and spray the place and children die...This threat is going to continue until we have political consensus to use every tool that we need.
“There is no statistical argument that can be made about the SOEs and their effect in short and medium term. The Opposition voted against it,” said Samuda as he expressed condolence to the families of the two young victims.
In her response, Duncan-Price argued that there were other measures like curfews which could be implemented instead of an SOE. She told the Observer that discussions with Minister Chang have been positive.
“A SOE can be a useful tool for particular points in time, but it is not useful when the people who it is meant to catch know about it before hand. They have to tighten up the information confidentiality around managing these things. In the meantime, they can use search and cordon, intelligence, capacity-building, and they can do curfews and police saturation with Jamaica Defence Force and the police force, the zone of special operations — all of those tools are available, use them,” she said.