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State of improvement

Order brought back to St James streets

BY BRIAN BONITTO
Associate Editor —
Auto & Entertainment
bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, April 13, 2018

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ASSISTANT Commissioner of Police (ACP) Ealan Powell, commanding officer of the three-month-long state of public emergency in St James, said, since its declaration, there has been a vast improvement in motorists' behaviour on the roads.

“We have been restoring order to the parish. What we found was that motorists had scant regard for the law. It's like everyone was operating a vehicle without respect for the Road Traffic Act. People didn't even stop at stop lights,” he told the Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine.

In January, Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared a state of public emergency in St James giving law enforcement officials special powers to deal with the outbreak of violence in the western parish. The powers include vehicle checkpoints, cordons and searches, patrols and snap raids.

The move appears to be yielding dividends as there has been a reduction in crime. Last year 1,616 people were murdered islandwide; of that number, 335 were in St James.

“A lack of public order contributes to crime. So we're bringing back order to the parish,” said ACP Powell.

According to the commanding officer, more than 10,000 traffic tickets have been issued since the state of public emergency has been imposed.

“This is a whole lot of tickets in that little space for three months,” he said.

The senior cop said the violations covered a wide range of offences, including: parking in no-parking areas; commercial vehicles operating with no carrier licences; operating contrary to road licences; no seat belt; excessive tints; and defective tyres.

“It highlights the extent to which 'bad driving' had become the norm here,” he said.

He also used the opportunity to share another interesting observation.

“Most of the tickets issued around Jamaica are for speeding. However, in St James, very few tickets were issued for speeding,” he said. “And the violators cover a broad cross-section, spanning all social classes. So it wasn't just the regular taxi drivers or bus operators.”

Meanwhile, the National Works Agency in tandem with the St James Municipal Council have introduced grid boxes at four intersections in the parish.

At a recent stakeholder's meeting, Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Homer Davis urged road users to act responsibly.

“I would appeal to our motorists, for I am sure that most of our motorists are law-abiding citizens, and I will ask them and beg of them to avoid getting caught in those grid boxes because you will be issued with a ticket.

“The police are on a warning spree now; they are not prosecuting, they are only educating the public to say, when the light catches you on yellow and you don't pass that white line: you are to stop. So yellow means stop. So if you see the yellow and end up on those yellow [grid boxes], then you will be prosecuted,“ said Mayor Davis.

ACP Powell said he is commending road users for their turnaround in behaviour.

“There are improvements. We're now seeing people observing traffic signs,” he said. “We're not at the level where we can be complacent, but there have been improvements.”

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