Vendors taking over St. James Street at night
Despite the new anti-vending initiatives, which were recently unveiled by the St James Parish Council (St JPC), disobedient vendors continue to operate with impunity in downtown Montego Bay, especially along the busy St James Street at nights.
The vendors' illegal occupation of sidewalks and open spaces in the heart of the city's business district has transformed it into a congested flea market, making the roadway a nightmare for pedestrians and motorists alike.
However, while it was the St JPC which initiated the anti-vending measures, the council says the blame for the high level of vendor lawlessness should be laid squarely at the feet of the St James Police, which, according to Montego Bay's mayor, Councillor Glendon Harris, is responsible for clamping down on illegal vending activities after 6 p.m. each day, when the official workday of the municipal police comes to an end.
LACK OF ENFORCEMENT
In fact, the mayor believes that the lack of proper enforcement has contributed to the influx of additional street vendors, who are turning out in increasing numbers to jam-pack St James Street at nights.
"I passed the police there yesterday (Monday) evening, and, to me, they were just passing by the vendors," said Mayor Harris, who noted that the council had made numerous attempts to get the police to support the anti-vending initiative. "I just came out of a meeting where that was a part of the whole discussion we were having. It is something I have down to (discuss) when I speak with the police to see how best we can cooperate to take charge of it."
Mayor Harris also stated that during the hours that the council operates, they have been trying assiduously to curb the street-vending problem and that, to a great extent, they have the situation under control during the daylight hours when the municipal police are out patrolling the streets.
MORE EFFORT NEEDED
However, the mayor admitted that much more effort is required to fully arrest the situation as, according to him, most of the street vendors are not from Montego Bay and as such, they do not have any regard for the efforts to promote the law and order of the city.
"It is a general problem right across the board, where law and order is not the norm ... . The next step is to strengthen (our) relations with the police," Harris said.
On any given night, it is not unusual to see the main street littered with scores of handcarts selling ground provisions, cooked food and soup and clothing, among other items, giving the area a flea market look.