SANTOY, Hanover - Less than two months after a triple murder in Santoy that left the community blanketed by fear, a group of stakeholders led by the March Town Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) on Saturday staged an outreach initiative aimed at restoring peace and order in the area.
The activity was held at the Santoy square, the same location where three people were killed and four others injured in the incident on March 18, which sent shock waves throughout Hanover.
Guest speaker, Pastor Glen Samuels, who is the president of the West Jamaica Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, noted that the last time he visited the area was shortly after six members of one family were slaughtered gangland-style in the adjoining community of Campbellton Road, Logwood, in October 2015.
“We are saying to Santoy, we are saying to March Town [and] we are saying to Hanover, this is Jamaica’s smallest parish with just about 69,874 people based on Statin’s [Statistical Institute of Jamaica] 2011 record. What the hell are we doing with such a runaway murder rate?” questioned the West Jamaica Conference head, who pointed out that there are “too many irresponsible homes and parents who are producing irresponsible children”.
Police records show that, while other crimes are down, shootings and murders have slightly increased in the western parish.
Since the start of the year, the parish has recorded 16 murders in comparison to 15 for the same period last year. There were 12 shootings last year compared to 14 for the same period this year.
Head of the Hanover Police Division Superintendent Sharon Beeput, who spoke at the function, later told the Jamaica Observer West that investigations into the incident in March are ongoing.
“Just to say that investigations are continuing in this matter, but the matter is being investigated presently by the MID section [Major Investigations Division]. So we continue to ensure that the persons who are involved, soon, we will be able to apprehend them,” stated Beeput.
Pastor Samuels told the gathering that it’s time for residents to stop turning a blind eye and play a collective role in the fight against crime.
“This matter of killing and reprisal killings, you can’t just sit and fold your hands. You really have to be proactive. Sometimes you can’t prevent some violence because you can’t be everywhere and violence is entrenched almost in the fabric of our society because there are too many of us who are silent. There are too many who will close a blind eye and too many persons who feed on the fruits of violence,” said the pastor.
“And so, we are here to say to the community, we have to reposition ourselves. It takes all of us together, JDF [Jamaica Defence Force], JCF [Jamaica Constabulary Force], fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, farmers, preachers, thieves, all of us together, because, unless we do that, then we will have more and more bloodshed.”
Besides, the clergyman said the church also has an important role to play.
“And may I say that the church cannot just be what we do inside the building on Sunday, on Saturday. Real church takes place after we leave the building called church where we are our brother’s keeper, feeding the hungry, counselling the at-risk youngster, sitting with the youth at the corner and saying to the youth on the corner, ‘Nuh mek the system meck you kill your brother, man. No dread, no,’ “ he said.
In the same vein, the pastor, who is in charge of SDA churches within the parishes of St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, and St Elizabeth, noted that the church has been playing its part.
“The church has been helping youngsters to stay in school safely from the corner. We are now involved with teaching soft skills in working with HEART and going into homes, and we are using all the tools in the book. Hoping by God’s grace, we can make a change,” stated an optimistic Pastor Samuels.
Superintendent Beeput was happy with the initiative.
“I’m truly delighted to be a part of the partnership with the churches —the Seventh-day Adventist circuit of churches. This community intervention will impact our community in a positive way. The police and the citizens get together to carry out the activities… we are hoping that from this adventure, the citizens will understand that crime and violence cannot continue in this parish. We have to understand that we have to be responsible and take responsibility for our actions. So we want us to come together, work together to make Hanover a safer place for all of us,” stated Superintendent Beeput.
Hanover Restorative Justice parish officer Joanalee Robertson commended Superintendent Beeput for her continuous collaboration with stakeholders in the parish at all levels, “not just our churches but other organisations that are seeking to assist the efforts of the Jamaica Constabulary Force”.
Unison Dixon, who moved into the Logwood community at age 10 and has been living there for over 40 years, said while there are a few “misplaced individuals” in the community, in general, the community members are loving.
“So they are full of love, but there is something… the devil always steps in with one or two of the young people. So I want to see the crime stop and I am inviting the people to focus and know that God comes first, it is not the gun or crime that comes first,” stated Dixon.
“I want them to think about how to live and get back the love in the community because it is really a loving community…Logwood is a nice place. It is just one or two among us who are troublemakers,” the churchwoman added.