St Catherine business operators happy but worried about loss in sales

BY TANESHA MUNDLE
Observer staff reporter
mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

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BUSINESS operators in northern St Catherine yesterday welcomed the state of public emergency as a move in the right direction, despite the possible slowdown in commercial activities due to the restricted hours as a result of enhanced security measures.

Operators in the business districts of Spanish Town, Bog Walk, Linstead and Ewarton — all part of the St Catherine North Police Division — believe it is timely and well-needed given the gravity of the crime situation in the division, but some shared the view that it will no doubt result in losses for them in sales as fewer people will patronise their businesses because of the increased presence of the security forces, as well as earlier closing hours.

However, they all agreed that the state of emergency has brought a new sense of security for them and their customers, and hoped that it will help to stem the rampant acts of criminality occurring in the parish.

The state of emergency, which initially will run for 14 days, was announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Sunday to curb the increase in murder in the division — which stood at 48 for the year up to the weekend — and other acts of criminality.

Delroy Clarke, who runs a tailoring shop inside the Spanish Town bus park which has had a number of shooting incidents, said, “From you nuh wrongdoer you won't have a problem with it, and you can't make anarchy take over; the place needs cleansing.”

However, he said it is bad for business as the current operation scares people away, but he is extremely happy and hopes it will be in place for more than 14 days.

A variety shop owner nearby, who gave his name only as Sean, said, “It is a good thing and it is something that the country needs at this time because of the state of crime, and we hope that it can put a dent in what is happening and shed some brighter light in the country.”

At the same time, he said: “I doubt it will have any serious impact (on crime) but I hope some form of cleansing takes place.”

He said Government should, however, have consulted with businessmen and women so that business could flow more smoothly, instead of being disrupted.

Another businessman who operates an appliance store in Spanish Town said, “I love what is happening. I just wish they would stay, because I feel a million times more safe. I don't mind if business drop; the rent is high but you life value more than what will be lost.”

One businesswoman who said she has been paying criminals extortion money to keep her establishment open, said many of her colleagues are happy for the state of emergency in the parish, but believe it would be better if it was islandwide.

In Ewarton, bar owner and auto mart operator Bernice, said, “They have to do what they have to do and we just have to adjust, because something have to be done [about the crime].”

“We just have to adjust because sometime business bad and there is no state of emergency,” she added.

In Linstead a wholesale and hardware operator, Vincent Passley, said he was happy about the state of emergency and was hopeful it would “clear up the problem that exist in St Catherine and make the whole parish a safer place, not only for law-abiding citizens but for business people”.

He added that he had no problem with the earlier closing time for businesses once it benefits the community.

A petrol station supervisor said that business has been slower than normal but that she and fellow workers felt safer.

“We will lose some business but you just have to abide by rule,” she said.

“It is something that is really good. We definitely need [it] and we feel safer, so they can stay for as long as they want,” was the response from Rosemarie Marshall, a bar operator in Linstead.

In Bog Walk, sentiments were similar.

Simone Dillon, an operations manager at Jamaica National Money Shop said: “I am hoping that they extend the (opening) time because I know that it has already impacted the community.” She said that she would make adjustment to the company's opening hours in the interest of her staff.

Like the business operators, residents also welcomed the state of emergency.

“It is a good thing and I welcome anything to help stem the crime,” said Chelsea Morgan, a cashier in Bog Walk.

She added: “I believe it will have an adverse effect on businesses and on the church but I like having the police and soldiers around, even though I don't depend on them for security — because if God don't give the final say, nothing can't happen.”

Morgan said Government should have implemented the state of public emergency from as early as December, when crimes in that section of the parish started to get out of control.

“So far it is good and I hope dem ketch the gunmen and it will cut down crime,” said Kerry Ann, a resident in Linstead.

Pensioner Bevin Reid, a resident of Ewarton, said she was glad for the new security measure. “Things just change drastically because we use to [be] out here late, [but since the increase in crimes] 7 'o clock nah ketch me on the street because these guys (criminals) are crazy,” he said.

Said Reid's friend Canute Johnson: “Man, I feel good cause last night (Sunday) me inna my bed and gunshot wake me and me think a my house dem did a come but it was at a house in the lane. These crime monsters; we need to get rid of them!”

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