KINGSTON – While some residents in Kingston and St Andrew communities, now under a state of public emergency, happily welcomed the measure yesterday, others decried the crime-fighting move by prime minister Andrew Holness as too little too late.
“Dem a come when everything done and di man dem (criminals) run weh. Weh dem a come do? Come count di dead?” an elder who was seen among a group of his peers on Maxfield Avenue told the Jamaica Observer.
Holness, during a hastily called media briefing at Jamaica House yesterday, announced that the latest state of emergency would take effect immediately to encompass parts of the Kingston Central, Kingston Western and St Andrew South police divisions, and will last for the next 14 days.
“The government considers it necessary to use the extraordinary powers provided for within a state of public emergency to address long-standing and entrenched crime and public order issues which have threatened lives, indeed taken lives, curtailed businesses, undermined the rule of law, and have deprived citizens their general right to live peacefully and enjoy a good quality of life,” Holness explained.
Additionally, he said the government believes that the crime situation in these areas have exceeded the capacity of existing law enforcement, and the state of emergency was aimed at eroding the capacity of the criminal organisations that operate and control those areas; break and challenge the culture of lawlessness within those areas; and ultimately provide a space in which law-abiding citizens and the police can work together to maintain peace and harmony.
But some residents charged yesterday that the state of public emergency should have been implemented sooner and as such will not have the desired effect as the violence has now subsided.
“Mi cyaan count pon me hand and toe dem the man dem who dead; me woulda haffi pick up gravel,” the Maxfield Avenue elder recounted.
Another man chimed in, “Nobody nuh live bout yah, di amount a people weh dead inna di place, it should a come long time already.”
Nonetheless, the elder and his peers said that although the area is somewhat calm now, they welcomed the operation and the presence of the soldiers.
“We welcome it as it tell us something say at least somebody memba wi; the people of Maxfield Avenue under siege and we tired fi lay dung pon ground. It is a joy to see the soldiers dem inna di place. Mi can guarantee from you see the green jeep it ago be peaceful around here.”
Another elder said he is one person who is lucky to be alive and is happy that the operation has finally reached his community, which they described as being a ghost town.
“Early in the year dem shot up mi house; mi deh pon di bed and mi hear gun shot and roll off di bed. And as mi roll off di bed one a the bullet pass through the pillow and through the wall. Mi a one a di luckiest man alive,” he noted.
“Every night dem did come and just a fire shot,” said the elder who also mentioned that he had been shot in his foot.
On Waltham Park Road, a man who was part of a group at a bar playing dominoes said, “Weh dem a go now? Wah day yah when di place did hot dem neva come. Wah day yah we couldn’t even siddung yah suh like dis. When all a dat calm a now dem a come.”
He was referring to recent violent attacks in areas such as Crescent Road, Latore Avenue and Berwick Road in the area.
“Dem no need no state of emergency now, dem fi go Rockfort and Dunkirk — over deh suh hot. The timing is totally off, the powers that be a see things upside down,” he added.
“Eighty per cent a people dead already a Maxfield; dem tek too long fi come, you know how much people house bun down a Crescent Road wah day?” another man chimed in.
Over on Gem Road, the residents were a bit more welcoming.
“Mi glad fi it, it will keep dem quiet. Who fi run weh wi run weh, and who fi keep quiet wi keep quiet,” one woman said.
Another man said, “We welcome it. Mi nuh have no problem wid it, but dem lucky if dem ketch even one a di man dem weh dem want, dem man deh gone to another community already.”
The state of emergency starts at the intersection of Oakland Road and Spanish Town Road in the north, and extends north-easterly along Oakland Road, south-easterly onto Waltham Park Road; north-easterly along Delamere Avenue; easterly along Delacree Road to the intersection with Maxfield Avenue; southerly along Maxfield Avenue; easterly along Rousseau Road; southerly along Lyndhurst Road; then onto Studio One Boulevard to the intersection with Slipe Road.
The eastern boundary runs from the intersection of Studio One Boulevard and Slipe Road, and extends southerly onto Orange Street; west along Harbour Street; south onto Pechon Street and southerly along Ocean Boulevard, to the shoreline in the vicinity of the Kingston Craft Market.
The southern boundary starts at the corner of Ocean Boulevard, south of the Kingston Craft Market, and extends north-westerly along the shoreline to the south-western corner of the Petrojam compound.
Meanwhile, members of the security forces seized three pistols along with several rounds of ammunition during an operation in Drecketts Place, Kingston 14, under the state of emergency yesterday.
Reports are that an operation was carried out in the area, where several premises were searched, which resulted in the seizure of a Bryco .22 pistol, two Beretta 9mm pistols, and 35 9mm rounds of ammunition. No one was arrested in connection with the find.