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BE VERY CAREFUL!

COMMUTERS URGED TO DOWNLOAD STAY ALERT APP

BY BALFORD HENRY
Observer senior reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 23, 2018

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THE police are planning to ramp up efforts to increase public awareness, especially among women, of the need to try to protect themselves against crimes, including those committed by operators of route taxis.

The Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) say that they have already received at least nine reports of women being raped and robbed by individuals operating route taxis, with some of the vehicles actually carrying the legal red plates.

This suggests that there could be an increase in the number of taxi rapes this year, considering that that 2016 produced a total of 27 such offences, a figure which fell to 16 last year.

Reports out of CISOCA show that the police unit has detected a trend in these crimes which follows the same pattern: The women are blindfolded inside the vehicle and raped, then taken to an ATM where they are forced to use their pin to access bank funds which are stolen from them.

Eventually some of the are released but, unfortunately, some are killed and left wounded on the wayside.

“We honestly believe that there is a group of men out there who are working together. It is the same modus operandi. It is the same thing that they do,” insists CISOCA's head, Superintendent Charmaine Shand.

She says that the police unit is planning to launch a public education campaign in coming weeks to urge members of the public, particularly females, to be cautious when using the route taxis.

The Ministry of National Security has been promoting its Stay Alert app for more than a year now, pointing out that the alerts will allow users to receive important information concerning their safety from the police.

“Use your phone as your weapon! Help reduce crime in Jamaica,” says the message on the ministry's website. “Let's hope that the current situation will encourage more Jamaicans to download the app and use it as a weapon against rape and robbery,” it adds.

According to Digicel's Head of Public Relations Elon Parkinson, after so many months of promoting it in their public education programme, the records show that only about 100,000 Jamaicans out of a population of over 2.6 million have downloaded the app.

“The app works. There is no doubt that it works. You Google it and press the panic button. That's all,” Parkinson told Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine yesterday.

“We have been sending out messages for people to download the app as part of our public education programme, but most people just ignore it,” he said.

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