Violence forces residents of central Kingston indoors
A few years ago, it would be impossible to travel through communities in central Kingston, especially on a weekend, and not encounter youngsters playing sports and sidewalks and corner shops being filled with talkative adults.
But those days are history. Yesterday, when THE STAR visited Rosemary Lane there was hardly anyone in sight as bloody gang feuds have been holding the residents hostage. Standing outside her gate, one woman said she no longer allows her grandchildren to ride their bicycles in the streets out of fear that they may be hit by stray bullets.
"Inna di yard mi make dem ride dem bicycle and dem nuh have nuh space in it because a tenement yard. The space nuh big enough fi dem ride and turn, suh dem have to come off and turn dem bike and ride go back up. It rough, enuh, but mi can't make dem outside because it's not like yuh know when tings a go happen," she said. The resident said that in order to entertain the children, she has to take them to the waterfront in downtown Kingston.
A zone of special operations (ZOSO) remains active within sections of central Kingston and the woman said she is extremely grateful for the presence of the security forces.
"We can't live suh, enuh, but a just life still. Right now every time mi look up the road and see the police and soldier dem, mi feel good and mi a pray that dem stay. We still fraid same way because di man dem nuh easy, enuh," she said.
Another Rosemary Lane resident said she sometimes feels like she's getting a panic attack when she hears gunshots.
"A concrete mi have on mi house and sometimes when mi hear di walking on the house top, mi feel like dem a go bruk it. More time mi have to tell mi grand pickney dem dem some words fi make dem stay off di road. Sometimes mi have to shout after them and a lot of times dem ask mi why mi a talk to dem suh. But dem don't even understand say mi nuh want dem on the road," she said.
A shopkeeper on Rum Lane said the continuous war between the Darksyde and Genasyde gangs has dampened the mood of the community significantly.
"One time, all when school over out here suh woulda full a pickney because dem always stop to buy bag juice and fries. But now yuh barely see dem. If dem a go shop, a run dem run go and go back in them yard," she said. She pointed to a bullet hole in one of her refrigerators, a remnant of the recent murder of a teen.
"Mi sit down a di shop and turn mi back to di road and a just bare shot start fire. One fly pass mi and lodge in the fridge. Mi coulda dead, enuh," she said. The tension is lighter in Parade Gardens but the residents are still on the lookout for attacks.
"Mi never use to make my grandchildren dem come out but people start let out dem children make dem play now. Things kinda calm now but we still look out because it is approaching Christmas and for some reason, flare-up always happen during those times," she said.
Commanding officer for the Kingston Central Police Division, Superintendent Berrisford Williams, said that after one year, there has not been any drive-bys in the areas covered by the ZOSO.
"The first ZOSO has not been lifted so they [security forces] are nowhere close to leaving the space. There are still concerns though that are raised to us but we are trying to launch the Star project under one banner, covering Rose and Parade Gardens. The Star Project will be a multi-million project between the private sector, the police, residents and other stakeholders," he said.