MONTEGO BAY, St James — The police emerged from a snap raid on the People’s Arcade in Montego Bay with concerns about the safety and welfare of children being raised at the dilapidated facility.
“You have people raising generations of family members here… without any [sanitary conveniences],” Superintendent Eron Samuels, who is in charge of operations in St James, explained after the operation on Thursday evening.
The raid was one of the latest carried out by lawmen since the start of their ongoing multi-agency ‘Operation Restoring Paradise — A Public Order Reset’ across the resort city.
The People’s Arcade, though originally built in the 1990s to house the city’s growing vending population, has proven, for years, to be a headache for the authorities as people have transformed the facility into homes, despite the absence of running water.
“We really are not in support of [people] living in a space like this and we are working with our partners to ensure that the public order [does] not just happen when it comes on to policing, but in the other spheres of life,” Superintendent Samuels said.
These concerns will be brought to the attention of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency for further investigations, Samuels told journalists.
“After seeing what has been taking place here, we will definitely be contacting the child development agency. We have a good working relationship with them, so they will be coming here to look and see the situation to ensure that our children are growing up in a safe environment. This is not a safe and ideal environment,” Samuels said. “This is not something we can see and leave alone, so that is a priority for us going forward.”
In addition to improper sanitation practices at the arcade, Samuels noted that the facility is also being utilised by criminals to elude the police.
“This area is a hotbed for crime. We have had several situations within this same ground and in close proximity, where this area is used as an escape route,” he said.
“Electricity is here, but it is basically stolen electricity, so it is a situation where if you are really to seek to maintain law and order, we must pay some attention to the activities that are taking place here,” said the superintendent.
“We have the Ministry of Health and the Water Commission here with us looking at how we can work together to ensure that we can get this place to a level where it is safe for the public to utilise. Also, we are aware that meals are being prepared here for sale to the public and there is no running water,” Samuels added.
He said that the People’s Arcade, if restored to its original glory, can serve the people of Montego Bay well.
“I think this location would be ideal if totally revamped and designed to allow for persons to vend [as] an extension of the bus park, so that we can take most of the traffic out of the town. Also, it would provide a structural space for legitimate vendors to rent [if they] put in the proper amenities, like running water and light,” Samuels suggested.