Clinton Pickering – Freelance Writer
With Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Homer Davis recently declaring that the people of St. James have become “very, very uncomfortable”, there are renewed calls by the fearful citizenry for a State of Public Emergency to be reintroduced in the increasingly violent parish.
Last Thursday, during the regular monthly meeting of the St. James Municipal Corporation, Mayor Davis shared his concerns regarding the recent upsurge in crimes. He sombrely explained to the council, “It [crime] has made the citizens of St. James very uncomfortable… very, very uncomfortable.”
Davis, who is a former crime sleuth and one of the early voices in opposition to the State of Public Emergency being removed earlier this year, recalled that, “a number of us in this parish agreed that the State of Emergency that was declared in January 18, 2018 was necessary and so, the people of St. James supported it.”
He went on to reference a recently released Don Anderson Poll, which showed 90 percent of Jamaicans supported the Government on its imposition of the crime-fighting measure. Meanwhile, 78 percent supported it being maintained, even as parliamentary opposition remained firm against its retention.
In reacting to an appeal from the Police High Command in the parish for the citizens of St James’ support in fighting the crime monster, Mayor Davis noted that he was confident that they [the security forces] have the tool to bring some semblance of order in the parish as it relates to murders, robberies and other crimes, but, he stressed, “I can tell you, in moving around and speaking to the people, they have become very, very fearful.”
The mayor further shared: “a number of them (citizens) have echoed the sentiment that we should reinstate the State of Emergency. That’s a very popular opinion out there because they saw what occurred during that 12-month period, and as a result of that, they are prepared to give up some of their own rights in order to protect life and property in this parish.”
Mayor Davis admitted that last week Sunday’s gangster-style hold-up in Montego Bay, which resulted in a double murder, as well as the robbery of millions in cash and cheques, “frightened the hell out of people and as a result of that, they are very fearful and have gone back into a similar state of mind as they were pre-January 18, 2018.”
PMI CONCERNED ALSO
Meanwhile, the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) is also very concerned that almost immediately following the lifting of the State of Emergency, crime and violence in and across St. James experienced a noticeable spike. For Chairman of PMI West, Rev. Everton Jackson, that was a worrying trend. Last Thursday, the clergyman shared with the Western Mirror, “That for us, represents a worrying trend; as one can recall that in 2017, a similar trend had emerged, which led to the State of Emergency being established in 2018.”
Rev. Jackson also shared that no one could question the fact that during the SOE, there was a significant reduction in crime and violence. “However,” he added, “regrettably, not many of the illegal guns were taken off the streets and evidently, the violence-producers went underground and waited for the SOE to come to an end, to re-emerge.” He noted that “this has created a climate of fear among the citizenry of the parish.”
He has sought to give an assurance, however, that notwithstanding, the PMI and other agencies “are not going to give up or give in or surrender in relation to our ongoing therapeutic and social intervention strategies and programmes.” In that vein, he said they continued to provide grief counseling with a view to minimizing reprisal possibilities.
Also, PMI would continue to work with the Social Development Commission, (SDC), the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) and other agencies, in providing opportunities through skills and social skills training in relation to anger management, among other things, “to see if we can keep crime and violence under control.”