MONTEGO BAY, St James — Reluctantly embracing the recent state of emergency (SOE) declared in St James by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, stakeholders in the crime-infested Granville community of the parish are expressing scepticism that the measure will be effective in recovering illegal firearms.
Guns have been the weapon of choice in the vast majority of the 140 murders reported in St James since the start of the year.
According to councillor for the Granville Division Michael Troupe (People's National Party), since the beginning of 2021, some 28 people have been murdered in community and its environs.
“If the new SOE comes with a different approach I am all for it. But if it is what I saw in the last SOE, it doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make any sense if you have people standing at security checkpoints and nobody is not finding any guns, and so forth,” Troupe argued.
“Over a period of time the people get used to the soldiers and police and they are one big family. So if they come with a different approach I don't have a problem, but if they do the same thing it doesn't make sense,” he added.
Executive director of the Granville Peace and Justice and Resource Development Foundation (GPJRDF) O Dave Allen also argued that if illegal guns are not taken off the streets then the SOE will be a failure.
“We have noted with interest that there is an increased police presence in the community but regrettably, we have not seen any recovery of guns. After the measure the guns will still be in the hands of the gunmen and this is why I have reservations about the SOE in terms of that it is the final tool in the toolbox to use to fight crime. Unfortunately, it is not effective. I am not expecting any great result from it,” Allen expressed.
During a recent tour of Granville following a triple killing in the community, Member of Parliament Marlene Malahoo Forte expressed her alarm over the ability of the gunmen to successfully hide their weapons from the police.
“If somebody dies from a gunshot a gun is involved. When you hear the shots being fired nightly...when the police come through, everything 'criss.' What is it in the culture of the community to think that it is okay?” questioned Malahoo Forte, who is also the attorney general.
The St James police have recovered 116 illegal guns since the start of this year, three of which were retrieved during the SOE.
Yesterday, Troupe argued that despite the heavy security force presence, sporadic gunfire can still be heard in the community.
“Gunshot is firing the same way. Since they move the barrier in Granville you have gunshots every night. You can actually predict the time when they are going to start shooting. So it doesn't stop them from firing gunshots. It doesn't stop them from doing what they want to do. And that's why I am saying to you if it is the same method they come with or the same strategy, it doesn't make sense. Unless they are going into more searching, cordon the area and do in-depth search. But apart from that, it (SOE) is just a name,” the veteran local government representative argued.
Allen, who noted that he welcomed any effort aimed at the reduction of violence in the community, corroborated Troupe's assertion that the gunshots continue to bark in the community.
“I have been hearing gunshots firing in Granville,” he stressed.
“The police are very stressed. We have been that route [SOE] and we have not seen any marked improvement in the reduction of crime and violence. We have to change it.”
States of emergency were established in the western parishes of St James, Hanover and Westmoreland; St Andrew South, Kingston West, Kingston Central, and Kingston East in the Corporate Area by Holness on Sunday, November 14.
Prior to that, a state of public emergency was declared in the parish of St James in 2019.