ONTEGO BAY, St James — Head of the Police Area One Division, Assistant Commissioner Clifford Chambers is seeking to dispel the perception that members of the security forces assigned to work during states of public emergency (SOEs) are slacking off on the job.
Even if they are not visible, he said, they are working to keep citizens safe. The latest 14-day SOE was declared for St James last Wednesday.
“Sometimes you’ll see them; sometimes you will not see them. Not seeing them doesn’t mean that they’re not elsewhere carrying out other policing activities, which is a misnomer. It’s something that we need to dispel,” Chambers told the Jamaica Observer on Monday.
He was responding to reports that the team at a particular location appears to retire by a certain time of the night.
“I must be honest, sometimes they are being rotated, but sometimes the team deliberately leaves the location because they are engaged elsewhere. We work with certain things called intelligence bulletins,” said the ACP.
The current SOE in St James came on the heels of several murders, including the deaths of two young boys and a man, said to be the intended target, cut down in their Salt Spring community by bullets from a high-powered weapon.
Members of Montego Bay’s business community and some residents of Salt Spring have welcomed the SOE. Other St James residents have complained of what appears to be soldiers relaxing under tents alternated with lengthy delays as spot checks slow traffic to a crawl in sections of the city.
Chambers said everything the team does is strategic and precautions must be taken not to alert the public about the tactics being used during the operation.
“Sometimes they’re not there and it is deliberate. Sometimes it is toned down and it is deliberate. Sometimes even the major congestion of traffic and they are relaxing is deliberate. And sometimes we just have to measure the better good. We have vehicles with tour buses all the way down Hopewell [in the neighbouring parish of Hanover] that are being affected and they have people missing their flight and affecting the tourism product. And a commander may just come in and say, okay, we may have to release you for this particular reason,” he said.
“At times we may lose some of the targets we’re interested in, but there are just some strategic operational decisions that have to be taken by the team,” the senior cop added.
He noted though that the ongoing SOE is reaping success as, up to November 13, there had been no murders and shootings in St James since it was declared on November 8.
In fact, Chambers said all major crimes are significantly down within the four parishes in Area One since the SOE was rolled out. The parishes are St James, Hanover, Westmoreland and Trelawny.
“There has been no murder in Trelawny, there is one in Hanover where two security guards were fighting and one used a knife to stab the other and there was a robbery in Westmoreland,” he told the Observer.
“So, you are seeing the trickling down aspect effect of the SOE also impacting positively in the other areas in the division. And, it is deliberate because all of the targeted raids have primary and secondary locations. Now, because of the network and amalgamation of some of these gangs, they are associated in other parts of the parish and we tend to carry out these targeted raids with consideration to the primary and secondary locations. So, we do simultaneous operations which also impacted those other parishes deliberately as well,” Chambers added.