MONTEGO BAY, St James — Head of operations for St James, Superintendent Eron Samuels is proud of the handle he says the police had across the resort city during the Christmas season.
Samuels told the Jamaica Observer that with Montego Bay’s annual Grand Market event making its return after a two-year hiatus at the State-run Harmony Beach Park, lawmen were strategically dispatched to ensure the safety of all patrons.
Noting that families were out in their numbers at the MoBay Reggae Nights event, Samuels said the streets of the second city were “relatively clear”. This came as a surprise to the lawmen who expected to see the hustle and bustle of people attempting to traverse the main thoroughfares.
“Grand Market in St James was hectic. We had a lot of people on the streets, however, we had quite good control over everything and there were no major incidents. We had a lot of foot and vehicular traffic within the city. We also had the Montego Bay Reggae Nights taking place over by the Harmony Beach Park which saw a large crowd as well,” said Samuels.
Explaining that the lawmen paid extra attention to maintaining order in the city through their multi-agency approach ‘Operation Restoring Paradise — A Public Order Reset’, Samuels told the Sunday Observer that business operators were given a 1:00 pm curfew for the Grand Market.
“We had places open until 1:00 am. It was a strategic move on our part because we wanted to ensure that we gave both the sellers and buyers a good amount of time to sell and purchase their wares. At the same time, we wanted to provide enough time for people to get off the road,” said Samuels.
He added, “We gave an hour for business operators to close their stores or pack up their goods, so we could have the roads clear by 2:00 am.”
This added support by the police was also replicated on New Year’s Eve as the recently implemented state of public emergency (SOE) has brought more boots on the ground, Samuels shared.
“The police and soldiers being on the road helped. It cut down the opportunity for criminals to do anything when we have that much presence on the road. With this added SOE, we believe that it will aid in the policing and law enforcement activities that we plan to do throughout the period,” he added.
Organiser of MoBay Reggae Nights, Andre Brown told the Sunday Observer that the event brought Montegonians from all walks of life for a night of enjoyment and entertainment. According to Brown, patrons were ‘blown away’ by the Christmas Eve staging of this free concert as Montego Bay had lacked a proper Grand Market celebration for several years.
“We had the world-renowned Ernie Smith who came to do a surprise performance and he did an amazing job performing all his biggest hits that people have come to know of him. We had our regular entertainers with our live band, and our Reggae dance class and we had other live band performances as well. We had a surprise Santa Claus that went around and gave out snacks to the children. We had support from several craft vendors and businesses across MoBay that came to set up shop and participate in the event,” Brown explained.
“The turnout was massive. While I cannot put a specific number to it, I can tell you that the entire park was filled. Not only was the venue ground filled, but the outskirts were as well. People walked around in the park and by the beach to support the other restaurants,” he added.
Pointing out that the novel coronavirus pandemic had undoubtedly altered the way a lot of families celebrate the festive season, Brown is confident that the event brought light to its patrons.
“As we also know, this Christmas was not a regular Christmas because things are a little bit tighter, financially, for everybody and you could see it around. It just did not feel like an ordinary Christmas. But I think because we went above and beyond to deliver a high-energy and well-put-together event with so many things to do, the families and everyone that came out had an amazing time. The kids were dancing. We had families sitting on blankets on the grass watching the show,” he told the Sunday Observer.
“When the entertainment took the forefront, everybody kept saying what an amazing night it was and they were so appreciative that for the first in a long time there was somewhere they could take their children. I would say it was the premiere event from the turnout that we got and the level of excitement from the patrons and the overall support that we got from the businesses in Montego Bay,” Brown added.