For some residents of Montego Bay St James it is the smell of blood which will be their lasting memory of last week, for others it will be the sound of gunfire and the acrid smell of gun smoke, still others will never forget the haunting cries of persons who had their friends and relatives killed by marauding gunmen.
But they all agree the uniform memory will be the fear that one could almost touch in the resort town as criminals, many still in their teenage years, held entire communities hostage as they fought for a prize no one seems able to claim.
At the end of the week, the unofficial count was at least 15 persons slaughtered by gunmen, three killed by the police and several areas stained by the blood of the innocent and guilty alike.
Struggling to cope, Montego Bay residents called for a state of emergency, increased police presence, draconian measures to deal with criminals, but up to Friday night the killings continued despite claims from National Security Minister Robert Montague Friday morning that additional deployment of police and soldiers to the area had contained the crime.
Yesterday, Police Commissioner Carl Williams was careful not to repeat Montague’s seeming premature pronouncement, as he expressed confidence that the police would be able to tame the monster that claimed at least 192 lives in and around Montego Bay since the start of this year.
“The police are not helpless. The police are doing the best they can,” Williams told The Sunday Gleaner hours after three persons were killed in the western city despite the increased police and military presence.
“It was really a difficult week for us. Right now, we are trying to put a lid on the violence. We are pursuing the instigators and the persons who are the shooters, those who are in any way in support of the violence right now,” added Williams.
He listed Mount Salem, Norwood, Glendevon, Flankers, Barry Town and the Montego Bay town centre among the areas where police and military presence have been concentrated.
According to Williams, curfews are one strategy being used by the cops to deal with the Montego Bay violence, but he would not comment on calls for a state of emergency.
“That I will not be discussing, I will not be discussing any state of emergency,” said Williams.
“The curfews have been on since the day before last night (Thursday) and they are going on tonight and tomorrow (Sunday) and for as long as they are necessary in the problem areas,” added Williams.
Late yesterday the police listed 10 persons who were wanted for murder and six persons of interest who were wanted for questioning.
Special Attention For Mount Salem
With Mount Salem listed as one of the problems areas to receive special attention of the police, some residents of that community told our news team yesterday that they are living in fear, with many looking for a place to run to.
This followed the killing of Robert James, 35, and Kemoy Nelson who were peppered with bullets outside their gate in Mount Salem about 8:30 last Friday night.
The police say they were standing on the roadway when two men aboard a motorcycle drove up and the pillion rider opened fire. James and Nelson, were taken to the Cornwall Regional Hospital where they were pronounced dead.
That incident came less than two hours after police had started processing a scene on Church Street where 21-year-old Keith Morgan was attacked and stabbed to death.
He was reportedly chased by an attacker into a taxi where he sought refuge. The attacker broke one of the windows to the vehicle to get to Morgan and stabbed him multiple times as he cowered in the vehicle.
Those killings were added to a string of others, including that of Bobby Clarke of Norwood, who was chased by gunmen travelling in two motor cars and peppered with bullets on the Ironshore main road about 11 a.m. last Thursday.
One youngster who witnessed Clarke’s murder told our news team yesterday that she was traumatised, and afraid of venturing into the city.
“I have never experienced anything like that. I feel sick. I could not drive back home,” said the young woman.
Less than two hours later, the gunmen were at it again, with four persons shot during a drive-by shooting at a mini-mart in Norwood. At 5 p.m., another shooting was reported at a gas station on the Sun Valley Road in Glendevon.
In that incident, three persons were shot with one succumbing to his injuries.
“This is madness,” declared one resident as she argued that a major coalition is needed to fight the criminals.
Some Montego Bay residents were left so worried last week, they demanded the release of their children from schools long before dismissal last Friday. Among some of the schools affected were Cornwall College, Montego Bay and Mt Alvernia High.
It was against this background that Montague declared that the violence in Montego Bay had been contained, and announced that the police had captured two men believed to be heavily involved in the killings.
Montague also hinted that he would not support a state of emergency for the city.
“There is nothing between the curfew and a state of emergency, and I would like to place on the table for national discussion … the question of some instrument to put in the toolbox of the security forces that fits between curfew and a state of emergency,” said Montague.
Yesterday, former security minister Peter Bunting also indicated that he would not support a state of emergency.
“What we need is a sense of urgency and not a state of emergency to address the situation in St James,” Bunting told our news team, as he chided Montague for his premature declaration that crime has been contained in Montego Bay.
“Mr Montague came out and said that calm has been restored. That was yesterday (Friday) afternoon and I thought that was a bit premature. I guess that three murders overnight is his idea of calm being restored,” added Bunting, who has called for a high-level stakeholders meeting chaired by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to address crime.
Holness is reportedly to visit Montego Bay today on his return from New York, where he attended the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly.