Big Gun Fear

Big Gun Fear

 

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Concern is being expressed by business people in the wider downtown Kingston community and shoppers over some police personnel carrying high-powered weapons in the densely populated shopping area.

The Police High Command, in keeping with an earlier promise of improving and increasing security for patrons and business people in the popular trading centre, has sent out more police personnel to protect shoppers, but there are fears that things could get explosive if the police are forced to use those guns in crowded areas.

One senior police officer, however, suggested that it was not normal for police personnel to carry such weapons and pledged to look into the matter.

“We welcome more police in the area, but we are deeply concerned that if there is a confrontation between gunmen who are down here in abundance these days — and the police, then innocent lives could be lost,” one prominent businessman told the Jamaica Observer on Thursday when the newsteam visited sections of the area and saw police personnel carrying high-powered weapons.

“I am no security expert, but it seems to me that it would be more difficult for the police to employ the services of their big guns, even in a situation that they face immediate threat to their own lives, than to be equipped with pistols ... say, for example, a 9mm Glock or something like that,” the expatriate said.

Another businesswoman with a smaller enterprise said that the wrong signal was being sent when police walked the streets with automatic rifles, citing some of the same issues brought to the forefront by her colleague.

“We are here every day and see robberies occurring before our very eyes and can't do a thing about it because we don't want those same criminals to attack us. So when we see more police come into the area, and don't just stay in large numbers at the top of Orange Street dealing with bus drivers, we feel very good about it, and we thank the commissioner of police for sending out more troops, because the more people get robbed, is the less business we do. But how do we go forward?

“Wouldn't it be better if the police carry their regular guns and, better yet, even if they move around in plain clothes rather than in regular uniform or the blue denim that they often wear?” the businesswoman queried.

Robberies have increased in the downtown area in recent years, although the police statistics do not always support that. However, due to the low reporting, and in many cases the non-reporting of robberies, the police do not always have the updated figures.

During the visit by the Sunday Observer, some shoppers said that they were happy for the more visible presence of the police, but, like the business people, expressed fear that the size of the weapons that some members of the Force carry around could pose a problem.

“Suppose big war start an police start shoot at bad man, how that going go wid so many people pack up downtown, especially on a Friday or Saturday when the place ram (packed), how that woulda go? one woman who gave her name only as Greta said to the Sunday Observer.

But yesterday Superintendent Robert Gordon, who is in charge of Kingston Central division, which includes some sections of the market district, said he is not aware of heavily armed officers patrolling the busy business district.

“That's an absolute no-no,” he firmly stated. “That is against the SOP (Standard of Procedure); the SOP is quite clear on how, when and where you would use those weapons.”

“I am not aware of that happening unless it's on the periphery, where we have some trouble spots, but within the market district, no, there is no way. It couldn't be within the space that I am responsible for, starting from West Street to South Camp Road,” he added, noting that officers are reminded of the SOP each morning.

He said such weapons cannot be used in crowded areas.

Gordon acknowledged that there has indeed been an increase in the number of police personnel, both covert and overt, patrolling the area.

“The [overt] presence is for prevention/deterence, covert is for detection. But we would prefer to prevent than to reach the stage where we're going to detect. The covert teams are out there as well and there are specific days when there are greater numbers based on history and what we know of when the shoppers are out,” he stated.

The superintendent encouraged Jamaicans, especially those who visit the commercial district, to be vigilant while conducting business throughout the Yuletide season.

Shoppers have complained bitterly about what they consider the sharp rise in hold-ups, grab thieving and general intimidation by men, several of them teenagers, who are said to be from many communities in the downtown Kingston area and as far away as Rockfort in East Kingston and Waterhouse in Western St Andrew.

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| 44 views | December, 3rd, 2017
Busy Radio

Chief editor of Blu Magazine and writer for various national publications

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