Beware!
ACP Clifford Chambers urges women only groups to be vigilant

MONTEGO BAY, St James — As many women opt for well-needed "girl trips" across the western parishes during the summer months, head of Police Area One Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Clifford Chambers is urging them to exercise vigilance as criminals see female-only groups as easy targets. Police Area One includes the divisions of Westmoreland, Hanover, St James, and Trelawny.

"Let us look at how the criminal mind works, first and foremost, a criminal will always think that he can escape prior to committing a crime. None of them (ciminals) are ever of the view that if they commit the crime they will be arrested, charged and prosecuted. If that level of certainty was there it would curtail a lot of these crimes that we are seeing," Chambers explained in an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer West.

He continued, "99 per cent of the time, unless the person has a point to prove, these criminals commit these crimes with the belief that they will not be apprehended. The next thing that they look at is vulnerability, so even when we look at hardcore criminals, you have curve control so no criminal from the other side is going to go into another community to commit a crime, but once vulnerability presents itself, they are going to strike."

Pointing out that women are naturally seen as one of the most vulnerable groups of people, Chambers further stated that criminals will attempt to target women drivers if they recognise that there is a "lack of target hardening". While he is not discouraging women from travelling alone or without a male companion if they choose to, Chambers said that lady drivers should be aware of the minds of criminals to ensure they do not fall prey.

ACP CHAMBERS... women are one of the most vulnerable groups

"With a female now… once the vulnerability presents itself, they (criminals) are going to strike. Women are one of the most vulnerable groups," the ACP said while adding " criminals will more than likely strike especially when a female is alone because again, the whole construct of target hardening will be looked at."

Expounding on what target hardening is, Chambers told the Observer West that these are security methods used to ensure the safety of property and self.

"When you build your house, you put on your grille and your cameras – that is target hardening. With regards to the person, target hardening is when a group of people are travelling and they are doing so on public thoroughfares and places that have a lot of people," the ACP said.

"So, when you are travelling alone, you remove that construct of target hardening so criminals may observe you in a car or driving a motorcycle alone and say that this presents a vulnerability," he continued.

The assistant commissioner further stated that a woman driver who recognises that she is being trailed while travelling should not panic, but instead drive to a public space and call for assistance.

"If you are travelling along a route and you observe that you are being followed over a persistent period of time, stop in a public place…drive into a property, make a call and remain on the phone if you are not able to have a talk with someone in person," Chambers said.

"Sometimes you can pretend that you are looking at your phone but what you're actually doing is taking a picture once you feel like something is not right. Our cellphones nowadays, you can be talking on it and still turn the cameras to record what is taking place," the top cop added.

Being able to pay keen attention to your surroundings especially in unfamiliar places is a skill that every woman should strive to develop, Chambers told the Observer West.

"That doesn't mean that you just look around to have a keen idea of location, time, space and structure, but people as well. When you are doing that you also need to make people know that you are looking, so it is not a matter of just looking under your eyes through your car mirrors, you should stare and make eye contact. You must also be vigilant about vehicles that you see, the licence plates, colour, make and model," he said.

"As it relates to people being held up, there is no particular location, time or gender that have come under our radar as being targeted in recent times," Chambers told the Observer West.

He added, "You just have to be extremely security conscious and aware of your environment. The issue that we have to also look at is what they [the criminals] want, so if they want a phone and they can snatch it and ride away on a bike, but it is different from them wanting your car or other personal belongings."

Just remain vigilant, Chambers appealed.

BY ROCHELLE CLAYTON Observer West reporter claytonr@jamaicaobserver.com

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