MONTEGO BAY, St James
After what he described as “a major increase in criminality in Lilliput”, councillor for the Rose Hall Division Anthony Murray has renewed his call for more police intervention to tackle the worrying crime issue plaguing his division.
“I have been lobbying for some intervention to take place in the area to stop the potential increase in crime. I've made several appeals for more personnel at the [Barrett Town] Police Station and for additional police units to be placed at the police station,” a seemingly frustrated Murray told the Jamaica Observer West.
“We are seeing where, in Lilliput, there has been an increase in criminality in the area. In the last two to three months there have been a number of shootings, and this has now become an area of concern,” the councillor added.
Murray, in his appeal to the police, shared that there is only one working service vehicle — a Toyota Axio motor car — at the Barrett Town Police Station which serves some 15,000 residents.
The councillor argued that the vehicle cannot effectively service the 20 communities across his division.
“It is not adequate. This area is a vastly populated area; we are looking at over 15,000 residents with one little Axio car? That nuh mek no sense,” he told Observer West.
“That sounds like we are not serious about policing at all in this area that has a history of criminality.”
The councillor's call comes after 25-year-old Oneil Thompson was shot and killed by armed men in Lilliput last Sunday. Murray pointed out that another man was also injured in the incident.
“The incident on Sunday, a man was shot and killed out there and another man was shot in his leg. A lady had to run with her baby because she almost got shot too,” Murray recounted.
“That happened about 11:00 am in broad daylight and that was the fourth shooting in the last month. We are even seeing where residents have been moving from the community because of the shootings.”
Based on police reports, Thompson — an unemployed resident of Lilliput — was at a community shop on Sunday morning when two armed men approached and opened fire at the occupants. When the shooting subsided, the police said, Thompson was seen lying in a pool of blood suffering from what appeared to be gunshot wounds to his upper body.
The man was taken to the Cornwall Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
While pointing out that he is not casting blame on the members of the constabulary force, Murray told the Observer West that he simply wants them “to be more proactive”.
“I am not blaming the police for the criminality, you know, but I'm thinking that they need to be more proactive as it relates to getting the crime rate down in the area because we are seeing where Lilliput now has the potential of breaking out into an area filled with crime,” said the councillor.
“The Ski Mask Gang was a known gang in this area before they were eliminated and there are still remnants of the gang in the Lilliput area. They [the police] can't get too complacent and think that the area is safe and secured, and allow crime to break out. I believe that's what is happening. The police are behaving like the area is safe now so they can just leave it as it is, and I think that will be a big mistake on their part,” Murray argued.
Furthermore, the councillor said, suitable measures were put in place by the St James Municipal Corporation (SJMC) to accommodate policemen and women in the Lilliput community.
But, Murray told the Observer West, this has yet to be utilised by the police.
“There are strategies that we have put in place as political representatives to ensure that the area is safe; we have gone as far as to put in a substation in Lilliput,” he said.
“There's a resource centre that was built there with facilities for policing, and it has never been used – and that could be an area in which they could actually police Lilliput from, instead of waiting on the Barrett Town police to come across. We have already put that infrastructure in place almost three years ago and it has not been utilised.”
And while admitting that his police divisions are currently short-staffed, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Clifford Chambers, commander of the Area One Police Division in which Lilliput falls, told the Observer West that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is now utilising divisional operational support across the parishes.
“We're aware that all the divisions in Area One are short and it was most acute in Westmoreland, so last week Commissioner of Police [Major General Antony Anderson] sent about 40 officers to Westmoreland to help alleviate the shortage,” Chambers explained.
“So, in short, [Barrett Town] like all the local police districts, is short in numbers and as such, we have to augment the station with what we refer to as divisional operational support. What we do is we look at the crime in all of the districts and then we'll deploy members…and we also do hot spot policing,” he added.
The assistant commissioner shared that the recent murder in Lilliput is associated with a well known gang from the volatile Norwood community.
“We are aware of the recent murder because what is happening is that [the area] is being used as a displacement location for Norwood's Jamal Gang,” Chambers said.
“And this is one of the reasons why we are sending assets from outside to augment the numbers in the space. So, the recent murder is currently under investigation and the victimology advised that the deceased was displaced from the Norwood Jamal gang and he was in fact targeted. So, this is not a random young man that was shot and killed,” Chambers stated.
Since utilising this divisional operational support, Chambers said, the JCF has not only recovered several illegal firearms in the Barrett Town Police Division but has made some arrests.
“In the Barrett Town police district, in the last seven weeks, we have recovered five illegal firearms in that location alone. That is almost one illegal firearm being recovered every week, and we have arrested 13 [individuals],” Chambers told the Observer West.
According to Chambers, the Barrett Town Police Station will soon benefit from an additional service unit.
“The station itself came up for discussion in my meeting and they will be provided a motor vehicle in short order. We're looking at the next one to two weeks and they should get additional vehicular support to augment the one that they have,” he said.
Also, the assistant commissioner noted that efforts are being made to build the capacity of the Barrett Town police district.
“But not only that, Barrett Town is one of the areas that we are also building capacity [in] so the officer who is in charge of that station is presently on a junior commander course at the staff college. This is our way of also adding value to the capacity, capability and competence of the officers in that particular space,” said Chambers.