The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) is pouring millions of dollars into a number of projects aimed at transforming the crime-plagued community of Barrett Town in St James.
So far, JSIF’s commitment to Barrett Town amounts to some $177 million, drawn from a loan facilitated by the World Bank. Having first implemented a zinc fence replacement programme, ground was broken on Friday for the next step, an lntegrated Infrastructural Project of road improvement, concrete channels and drainage.
JSIF’s Managing Director, Omar Sweeney, said this aspect of the transformational project programme would see the funds spending $121 million while citizens will provide community support costed at over $8 million.
The 2.5 km of roadway to be rehabilitated by contractor Steven Chung of Contracting Enterprise include Rhyne Park Avenue, Vietnam and Saigon Roads, Success, Church, Merv, Jenkins and Chuku Lanes. Concurrently, drainage will be put from Success Farm to Spot Valley Road.
In recent times, illegal guns have been barking in Barrett Town, resulting in the army now maintaining daily vigilance in the community and residents having to stay off the streets after 6:00 p.m., out of fear of being attacked by gunmen.
Mr. Sweeney felt that the law-abiding citizens were serious about embracing the transformation “despite some of the negatives that’s been taking place recently,” and gave a commitment that “we are here to fight that and we’re not going to a very few that have a different initiative.”
He said the project was intended to support safety and security and overall improvement of the community and be focusing on, “first and foremost, to support the police and other emergency services; ambulance fire, even your own emergency services.”
POLICE FACING CHALLENGES
JCF Officer in charge of the Barrett Town Police Station, Inspector Stanley Gordon, welcomed the development. “Where Barrett Town is coming from, where we are now and where we’re gonna go, with the road improvement, that’s going to lead to success, we’re going to achieve a lot,” he said, while pointing out that the police faced several challenges in the community.
“One of the challenge is that people keep having issues, several issues, so I’m hoping that when this infrastructure is completed, we the community and the police can use it to meet and greet each other because sooner or later, I’m hoping that we can reduce the amount of domestic issues we’re having.”
And delivering the main address, Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Homer Davis, also lauded what was being done by JSIF to uplift the community but lamented that because of the crime and violence, on entering the Barrett Town community he had to see armed soldiers on duty.
“I can see a makeover in progress, I can see a game changer in progress but what struck me this morning on my way here, as you passed the Barrett Town Police Station, to make the right turn to come up the hill, I thought I was in Saigon, I thought I was in Vietnam ’cause what I saw was members of the Jamaica Defence Force dressed in combat uniform, along with a policeman and what they were doing, they were patrolling a community in Jamaica! And I must be quite honest with you, it makes me very uncomfortable.”