BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — The police say they are committed to keeping the streets of this south central town free of illegal vending for the yuletide season.
However, registered fee-paying vendors of the Santa Cruz Arcade just north of the Santa Cruz market yesterday pointed to unauthorised street vending on the sidewalks of the town centre as evidence they had been let down by the authorities.
A check by the Jamaica Observer in the early afternoon yesterday showed an assortment of clothes, shoes, toys, Christmas decorations and other goods lining the sidewalks at the centre of the busy town, which is the commercial centre of St Elizabeth.
When contacted, Commander Anthony Lewis, who is in charge of the Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF) in St Elizabeth, insisted that "all areas are being policed as far as I know". He claimed that the police would be moving against the illegal vendors in Santa Cruz. The ISCF is responsible for anti-vending operations.
Lewis said his team had a policy to keep all major town centres free of illegal vending.
But vendors at the Santa Cruz Arcade told the Sunday Observer that ongoing, large-scale street vending has undermined their livelihood and that they felt betrayed.
"The parish council promised us that we would get protection... but now we not selling anything; everybody on the streets," one vendor told the Sunday Observer.
"The mayor not helping us none at all, they (parish council) said they were going to help us, but they just helping us down," she complained.
When contacted yesterday, chairman of the St Elizabeth Parish Council and mayor of Black River Everton Fisher declined to comment. A week ago, Fisher had told the Observer that the parish council was "working with the police" to ensure that "as much as possible vendors are kept off the streets of Santa Cruz and Junction".
Fisher had said then that a special arrangement had been made for Black River, where renovation work is taking place on the market, for vending to be allowed on the "side streets" of the parish capital.
But yesterday, Lewis made it clear that "the law" would not allow him to make any special allowance for street vendors in Black River or anywhere else. "As far as I am concerned, the law applies," he said.