Sunday, November 12, 2017

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Welcoming the New Year in some communities of this western city is usually marked by lengthy gun salutes by gangsters carrying illegal weapons. But the police say they are already prepared for that this year.

Communities like the volatile Salt Spring and Glendevon in the city are prime areas for gun salutes — their way of ushering in the new year. Many of those who live in such sections of the densely populated city have complained in secret, about the annual racket that they say often drives fear into them. Yet, they say that they cannot lodge formal complaints to the police, for fear of reprisals.

“More time inna Salt Spring 'pon New Year's Eve, gunshot a lick fi all over one hour, an' no police nah come ya. Is like the police dem gi di man dem the right fi jus' a buss shot so,” a long-time resident of the St James Central community stated.

A similar sentiment was expressed by a middle-aged woman in Glendevon who marvelled at the way that the gun has become such a “prominent” weapon. “I have lived in Glendevon for 38 years and this is the worse I have seen the place. When Christmas time done and people like me and my family go watch night church service, all when we a come back from church is pure gunshot a lick. The boy dem start fire inna the air from all 11 o'clock New Year's Eve night and is just like a big carnival to them,” the skilled worker said.

But the police have given the assurance to those and residents of other communities that 2016 was the last time that such blatant shooting would occur.

Commander of the Police Area One, Assistant Commissioner of Police Donovan Graham, said that following the gathering of intelligence on the traditional communities where there have been incidents of gun salutes over the years, members of the security forces will be appropriately deployed.

“When we look at the intelligence that took place over the years, it will assist us in deploying strategically towards preventing a repeat of what had been taking place over the years,” ACP Graham told the Jamaica Observer.

“We just look back at what obtained and go into the field and do some intelligence work and to see how best we can do our deployment in order to avoid a repitition.”

Head of the Western Jamaica Peace Management Initiative (PMI) Reverend Everton Jackson lamented that the wild discharge of volleys of gunshots by brazen gunmen have been allowed over the years, sometimes in communities close to police stations.

“It seems as if it has become a cultural expectation in many communities, and oftentimes these activities are carried out sometimes in close proximity to police stations. I hope, though, that they will clamp down on it, especially in the given climate that we are in, that it will not be countenanced,” the clergyman remarked.

“The discharging of weapons in public spaces like that, especially by allegedly persons who are owners of illegal firearms, under no circumstances should be tolerated,” Rev Jackson said.

But ACP Graham was pragmatic in his quest to oversee the total discontinuation of the gun salute celebration of the New Year because of infrastructural challenges which could thwart the effort of his charges.

“We could still have explosions, but as best as possible we will curtail these (gun salutes) as there are remote locations which are not so readily accessible,” the senior cop said in response to the Sunday Observer's question, if the gun salutes are expected to be totally eliminated.

Residents of some of the inner-city communities, where heavily armed thugs are engaged in ringing in the New Year with gunshots, have expressed alarm at the number of high-powered guns that the thugs have at their disposal.

“When me look out is a large troupe of gunmen me see marching down the road. All of them strap with AK rifles,” a member of a St James inner-city community told the Sunday Observer.

The community member, who spoke to the Sunday Observer on condition of anonymity, recounted how well illuminated the night became after the men started firing in the air on the brink of New Year's Day.

“Them have nuff shots, because the man them a beat shot for a while and the whole place light up,” the community member pointed out.

A member of another community recalled that family members quivered in fear when the barrage of gunshots rang out on the stroke of 12:00 on New Year's morning.

“Me wonder how it would go if the soldiers them a drive through at the moment when them (gunmen) firing shots,” the St James community member pondered.

In the meantime, residents of Mount Salem where the first Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) was declared on September 1, are not expected to be disturbed by the usual heavy gunfire which greeted the start of the year this time around.

ZOSO was extended by 60 days in the community, where residents claim that prior to the initiative, they were terrified by the nightly eruption of gunshot explosions.

Nine illegal firearms have so far been recovered in the community since the declaration of ZOSO.

Overall, 141 illegal firearms have been recovered by law enforcers in the parish since the start of the year.




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