'Dem nuh care bout we' - St James hoping for peace amid state of emergency despite late action

January 22, 2018
A Jamaica Defence Force soldier directing traffic at Greenwood, along the border of Trelawny and St James, on Friday, which was day two of the State of Emergency in St James.
Ian Allen/Photographer A policeman conducts a search of a motorisy while members of the Jamaica Defence Force look last Friday in Flankers, St James.
Ian Allen/Photographer Members of the Jamaica Defence Force(JDF) preparing a camp in Norwood St.James.
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"A just because ah di airport!"

That comment from a female resident of Flankers betrays a feeling by many in St James that last week's declaration of a state of emergency in the parish was done because the Government is concerned about the impact of crime on tourists.

"Dem nuh care 'bout we. If di killing neva gwaan out a airport, we wouldn't see none a dis," said the woman with annoyance in her voice.

Last Monday, the St James police were kept busy as two shootings occurred less than two hours apart, both within the vicinity of the roundabout near the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, leaving one man dead and two others wounded.

Two days later, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the state of emergency.

At the time of the announcement, St James had recorded seven murders since the start of the year, three fewer than the corresponding period last year.

St James recorded 335 murders in 2017.

"The Government has been contemplating this action for some time," the prime minister said. "It is not an action for show."

While seemingly unimpressed by the presence security forces in Flanker, one resident said the persons feel as if their lives do not matter. He reasoned that killings have been taking place in the community for months and they have never seen this response from the Government.

 

HAPPY FOR ACTION

 

However, a pensioner who was tending to her yard was happy that a state of emergency had been declared.

"I have been here since I was about 14, and this is worse I have ever seen the violence. So I am happy about this."

In recent times, the prevalence of shootings has increased as the community is in now experiencing a gang war between factions of the Sparta Gang.

With the state of emergency in effect, the security forces have blanketed St James, carrying out vehicular spot checks and snap raids. In Norwood, residents stood on the sidelines and watched as members of the Jamaica Defence Force converted on open plot of land about the size of a football field into a camp.

With a helicopter circling above, schoolchildren with bag juices and young adults with much stronger juices stood and watched the soldiers set up tents, floodlights and latrines.

"If me never rate Andrew before, me rate him now. A months now me nuh sleep good ... . Last night a di fuss," one resident told THE STAR as she looked on.

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