'We're hopeful'
Westmoreland stakeholders pin hopes on Operation Relentless ll to cauterise crime
PERRIN…I have to be optimistic because things really hardly can get worse

SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Stakeholders in Westmoreland are hoping that the Government's latest crime initiative, Operation Relentless ll, will stem the wanton blood-letting in the parish.

Between January and September 24 this year, the police in the Westmoreland Police Division recorded some 114 homicides, which was 32 more or a 39 per cent increase over the 82 tallied for the corresponding period in 2021.

Speaking at a recent stakeholders meeting, Senior Superintendent Wayne Josephs, the commander of the Westmoreland Police Division, blamed lotto scamming as one of the main driving forces behind the killings in the parish.

"The thing is, with those spoils from the lottery scamming, they are buying [illegal] guns and they are killing people," SSP Josephs was quoted as saying.

WALLACE… we are hopeful that it will bear fruit

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), in partnership with the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), last Friday launched the major operational initiative, which aims to target criminal gangs and gangsters involved in violent crimes or other aspects of the illicit gun trade.

The initiative will place emphasis on the divisions that have the highest levels of violent crimes, including those associated with lottery scamming and narcotics activities, which funds illicit gun trade in Jamaica.

Westmoreland Central Member of Parliament George Wright, in embracing the initiative, told the Observer West that anything to curb crime across the island and Westmoreland in particular, is useful.

"Right now we are at a crossroad where a drowning man can clutch at a straw. As it relates to crime and violence, especially in Westmoreland, for want of a better word, it tun up. And, I would happily welcome all initiatives to curtail crime and violence," the first-time MP said.

Prominent hotelier and president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce and Industry Richard Wallace also endorsed the recently launched crime-fighting effort.

"Obviously this initiative would have been driven by intelligence from the police. A lot of the murders that we hear about we often hear that they are linked to lottery scamming and those kinds of things. So if, based on their intelligence, they are seeing that that is the way to target crime, then I believe we have to support it and hope it bears fruit," the businessman said.

RUSSELL…Westmoreland is in a dangerous spot

"We absolutely need to do something about the crime, the murder rate across Jamaica. So we are hopeful that it will bear fruit and we wish them [security forces] well because their success is our success. So that's our position on it."

Custos of Westmoreland, the Reverend Hartley Perrin, too is hopeful that Operation Relentless ll will lead to a downward trend in crime in the western parish.

"I have to be optimistic because things really hardly can get worse. So whatever initiative can be taken and bear any fruit, it would be to our benefit. It cannot be that we continue to live in fear and see the blood of youngsters going down the drain, life being practically useless, senseless killing," a seemingly optimistic Perrin stated.

"So if the police are doing something, in collaboration with the JDF, and they feel that that can work, I am prepared to give them whatever support is necessary and let's see what happens because obviously it cannot be business as usual, something needs to be done, some steps will have to be taken and if they are taking this step we applaud them and wish them well."

JOSEPHS…with those spoils from lotto scamming, they are buying guns and killing people

But Bishop Oneil Russell, head of the Ark of the Covenant Holy Trinity Church, says while he welcomes the new crime-fighting initiative, he is not overly optimistic that it will result in the cauterisation of crime in the parish.

"Launching an operation is good, but curbing the crime is another thing. I am happy that they are trying to bring the crime down. While I welcome the move, I do not have much hope that this will curb the situation that is escalating in our parish, especially in our neck of our woods, in Savanna-la-Mar in particular," the Savanna-la-Mar-based clergyman argued.

"We had so many, many anti-crime measures come. And they come in and last for a moment and then everything seems to go back to where it was. One of the problems that we have with these crime-fighting efforts is it becomes an effort that doesn't go far enough. I mean if they find 10 criminals they ease up. Then you hear them put out in the media that it was a success. Ten criminals out of a 100 does not make it a success!"

Russell expressed concern over the wave of criminal activities in the parish, stressing that it is "widespread".

WRIGHT… I welcome all initiatives to curtail crime

"I am so perturbed. Over the weekend you have murder in Little London, you have murder in Whithorn, you have murder on Dalling Street, you have murder in Petersfield…and that is how the murders just keep on going around. It is so sad; people are fearful," he remarked.

"The one in Whithorn Saturday night is two weeks ago his father and his brother were buried. I had to hug the mother at the church before the two were buried because I know them. If they have to declare a state of emergency in Westmoreland, I would support it. Even for the 14 days I would support it because it cannot continue like this. It [crime] is out of hand. Westmoreland is in a dangerous spot."

BY HORACE HINES Observer West reporter SAVANNA-LA-MAR,

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