Sat | Dec 3, 2022

Cops wilting under SOE, ZOSO fatigue

Residents, Westmoreland Chamber boss call for more manpower in crime fight

Published:Tuesday | November 23, 2021 | 12:10 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor

WESTERN BUREAU: Despite Prime Minister Andrew Holness seemingly not being convinced that there is a dire shortage of policing manpower in western Jamaica, crime-weary residents and overworked cops are adamant that more boots are needed on the...

WESTERN BUREAU:

Despite Prime Minister Andrew Holness seemingly not being convinced that there is a dire shortage of policing manpower in western Jamaica, crime-weary residents and overworked cops are adamant that more boots are needed on the ground if the current states of emergency (SOEs) and zones of operations are to be impactful.

“It is like almost three years of round-the-clock policing and it is the same people. We are not getting any additional support of note. While we do have the support of the military, you are looking at two zones of special operations in Mount Salem and Norwood [in St James] and three states of emergency in Hanover, Westmoreland, and St James,” a senior policeman, who requested anonymity, told The Gleaner.

“We are running up into some brazen criminals, who are heavily armed ... . A force that is not properly motivated, overworked, underpaid is not going to be as effective as Jamaica would want them to be. The commanders might want to put a nice spin on it in terms of title, but under the circumstances, it is difficult to get the job done,” he insisted.

During a tour of crime-plagued Westmoreland last week after imposing SOEs in seven police divisions across the island, Holness said that the numbers only seemed inadequate because of the high level of crime in the area.

“In other words, the normal manpower distribution for this area would be quite appropriate were the level of crime and violence lower,” he commented.

But it is for this very reason why significantly more support is needed, the senior cop argued.

“For us to have an impactful SOE, the people must be able to feel the impact of the measures … . They must see the security forces out in almost intimidatory numbers and realise that is something beyond the ordinary,” said the policeman, lamenting last week’s brazen murders of a trainee cop in his home community and another man at an anti-violence seminar.

Last week, as Holness toured sections of Savanna-la-Mar, including the warring Dexter Street and Dalling Street communities, residents expressed disappointment that the newly declared SOE had not resulted in a flood of cops and soldiers to flush out the gangsters.

“The only time we see police a when somebody dead. Differently from that, we nah see dem,” one young woman told The Gleaner in the Ricketts Street area. “We don’t have any state of emergency around this side. Dem might announce it, but none nuh down here inna Westmoreland. If the prime minister wasn’t a come, you wouldn’t see one [member of the security forces] here.”

Moses Chybar, president of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce, is also calling for more manpower to give the security forces the upper hand in the crackdown.

“In order to mitigate the rise in crime, we need to increase the number of policemen and women. We have for too long been doing the same things using the same old methods; therefore, the results remain the same,” said Chybar.

Unlike the cops on the ground, who were willing to voice their displeasure with the current situation, those at higher levels in the chain of command were unwilling to take a position contrasting with the prime minister’s.

adrian.frater@gleanerjm.com