Manchester councillors worried about crime wave

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Councillors here are calling for an urgent meeting between businesspeople, the police, and other groups to cauterise the crime wave affecting this south-central parish.

Manchester recorded a significant increase in major categories of crime, including murders, shootings, and robberies in 2022 when compared to the corresponding period in 2021.

Mayor of Mandeville Donovan Mitchell, in addressing Thursday’s meeting of the Manchester Municipal Corporation, pointed to last Monday’s shooting incident on Kendal Road (near Ingleside), in the town, as a concern. Bullets grazed two businesspeople during an attempted robbery there.

He believes some businesspeople are preyed upon because of a reluctance to hire security.

“I think there has to be some meeting with the Chinese [businesspeople], police, and the business community to advise them. I don’t think the Chinese recognise that you can’t just be travelling with large sums of money and that the funds should go into the formal business sector, meaning, go to the bank. That is one of the problems that they are faced [with], and because of that, people prey on them,” Mitchell said.

He suggested that some incidents of crime were “inside jobs”, where people set up their employers to be robbed.

“We have to be honest with ourselves, because even our very workers within our own jurisdiction know our movements and know what is happening. I am calling on these Chinese [businesspeople] to at least have dialogue with the police,” said Mitchell.

He said the incidents of crime in Manchester have affected the police’s limited resources.

“The police are already stretched. We have some other problems – shootings, murders – and we are praying that all that is happening was just because of the silly season and that things would have somewhat calmed down,” he said.

He pointed out that domestic-related crimes were of concern.

“I am hoping that with the gun-related new laws that things will change. Probably it has changed, because I have now seen one and two machetes and knife stabbing coming up these days in the news media. I don’t know if now people are reverting to machetes and knives, but we pray that people will understand that we find another way of dealing with our problems,” said Mitchell.

Councillor Mario Mitchell (People’s National Party, Bellefield Division) was concerned that head of the Manchester police Superintendent Shane McCalla was absent from Thursday’s meeting.

“I ask that a high-stakeholder meeting be held as quickly as possible… I myself have a few solutions that I want to put on the table. I notice that the superintendent is not here. There was even a shooting in my division a few nights ago, where a lady was shot [while] visiting [the area] from the Greenvale community,” he said.

“The citizens have complained and they have stated their concerns, and I would love for us to take the charge and the lead to see if we can put together that high-stakeholders meeting with the police, military, private security, parish council, and the relevant government and private sector entities,” added councillor Mitchell.

The mayor, in agreeing with the councillor, said Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson made pledges to support policing in Manchester recently.

“I will seek to have at least a sit-down with the police hierarchy for the parish. I know that the commissioner of police did visit the parish late last year. I know that he made some commitments in terms of manpower and in terms of vehicles,” said the mayor.

“One of the things is the mobility of the police, that is our greatest problem,” added the mayor.

Councillor Iceval Brown (Jamaica Labour Party, Grove Town Division) said criminals were targeting her area.

“I noticed recently that the Grove Town Division is being targeted by robbers, murderers, and everybody. The last shooting that happened was in Warwick and I am only sorry the superintendent [Shane McCalla] is not here, because what I would like to see is the police having a meeting in some part of those areas,” she said.

“These days, one [a stranger] will walk up and ask for Councillor Brown, ‘Do you know her?’… And without any thinking you say, ‘Yes, this is Councillor Brown,’ and I am the target. So the police need to come in and to educate a lot of us on how to behave, especially when you see strangers,” she added.

Councillor Claudia Morant-Baker (JLP, Porus Division) complained about the mobility issues affecting the police.

“It is a serious concern in the Porus police division, because sitting in the [recent] Christmas tree lighting I heard a terrible sound that night, and when I looked up, it was the police car, the belt squeaking, and I asked, ‘What happened to the SUV that was there?’ They explained to me that it was sent for repair and did not return to the Porus policing division,” she said.

“I am taking this opportunity to request that it be sent back to Porus, because I heard it was repaired. The car that is there is unacceptable; it cannot manage the terrain and when it reaches at the foot of the hill it stalls so how are they going to answer to [matters] at the top of the hill?” she added.

Councillor Jones Oliphant (PNP, Mandeville Division) shared similar sentiments about the mobility issue.

“I hope and I wish that the police vehicles that are parked at repair shops all over the parish, that even 50 per cent of these could come back in operation so that they can help in the security of us,” he said.

“I think there needs to be a coordinated effort between the businesspeople and us as citizens so that we can tackle the scourge that we have,” he added.

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