Gregory Park residents desperate for enhanced security measures

RESIDENTS of Gregory Park in Portmore, St Catherine, are calling for enhanced and sustained security measures in their community and are imploring the police not to abandon them following the lifting of a curfew on Monday.

The curfew was imposed after gunmen firebombed and opened gunfire on several houses in a yard on Walker’s Avenue, killing 28-year-old Raneel Haughton and leaving more than 40 people homeless over the weekend. Haughton died after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds and an elderly woman was hospitalised with severe burns from the blaze.

The curfew was declared on Saturday evening and was scheduled to last for 48 hours, which meant it was to end at 6:00 pm on Monday.

There was no word from officials on plans to extend the curfew.

However, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson, and Alando Terrelonge, who is Member of Parliament (MP) for St Catherine East Central, where Gregory Park is located, toured the affected space on Monday. Holness pledged that necessary action will be taken to ensure terrorist don’t reign with impunity in Gregory Park.

But until the residents see evidence that things are actively being done to keep them safe, they said they will remain scared and on edge as the presence of the security forces appears to be their only hope of safety.

“Since the incident the police have been here and nothing bad has happened from Saturday. As soon as they leave, it is going to be a problem, based on the state of the community. I don’t know why they don’t drop a zone of special operations or a state of public emergency over here. Why only certain places get that? What happened to Portmore? If I hear one shot fire after the curfew is lifted, me and my children have got to leave, because the criminals are taking over the place,” one woman told the Jamaica Observer.

“We would appreciate a state of emergency or even a police post, because the Gregory Park police seem they only want to lock up people for marijuana. The prime minister should take care of the situation,” another resident said, alleging that there are people from a section of the community called Gulf who are causing the mayhem.

Due to the nerve-racking state that the criminals have put one woman in, she said that she took precautionary steps to secure all her important documents. If there happens to be another episode of firebombings, she can quickly grab these documents and run to safety.

“I had to take up all of my documents and put in a bag, ready to move at any time,” she said.

Prime Minister Holness said during the tour on Monday that the act of the arsonists was such that there was no other way to describe it other than an act of terror.

“More resources will be put into the space to ensure your security. It was a an act of terror and the people who committed it are terrorists and should be treated as such and dealt with within the remit of the law. It is not the first time that we have seen the use of arson to displace people. It has happened in the area several times before. If you look at the crime reports, you will see that gangs using arson to displace communities is quite a common feature. Last year a similar incident occurred [in Gregory Park] and the police were able to intercept some of the men who were believed to have carried out the arson. I believe a few of them were killed. It is quite unfortunate that we were not able to intercept those who committed this act on Saturday,” Holness said.