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Some Spanish Town residents in support of, others against SOE in St Catherine 

THE Government’s imposition of a state of emergency (SOE) in St Catherine was greeted with both support and opposition in Spanish Town on Friday morning, hours after Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the measure designed to stop rampant criminality in the parish.

Upon visits to several communities, including crime hot spots such as Cumberland Road, St John’s Road and Homestead, normality was mostly observed as residents, vendors and motorists were busy engaging in their daily routines.

There was also an increased presence of the security forces.

The prime minister’s decision to impose the SOE comes days after mayhem in sections of Spanish Town, where three men were shot dead and several were injured. One of the dead men was identified as a gangster known only by his alias Mackerel.

Friday on Cumberland Road, close to the Spanish Town Market, there were more vendors than shoppers in the area but those who spoke to the Jamaica Observer welcomed the measure.

A 64-year-old shopper said he was in total agreement with the SOE.

“It is good when the military and police presence is here. People feel more secure. We need it,” he said.

One elderly vendor said she made no sales up to midday.

“Things slow; from morning I don’t get a dollar. The SOE just affi gwaan; I have to just think positive. I come but I come with fear, but [because] I have to try sell something,” she said.

A 50-year-old vendor had a similar view.

“When you serve God you just have to be strong. We affi eat food and we have children fi go school same way, weh we ago do?. We cyaan stay in,” she reasoned.

Another vendor said he was looking forward to heavy patrolling of the old capital by the armed forces.

“We need the SOE. We want whole heap a soldier bout ya. Mi nuh wa nuh soldier a model pon nuh road, we wa dem guh inna di lane dem. Di gunman dem inna the car dem a move round fi shot more people,” he said.

At the same time, a taxi operator said he feels much safer with the SOE.

“It make mi feel safe yes, mi see police a drive through. I’m just trusting in God. He alone can carry me through,” he said.

Another taxi operator from St John’s Road, where a body was discovered early Friday morning, added: “Over ya suh hot ya now; some likkle youth a give nuff trouble. Nobody nuh wa stay inna di town. [We] just affi move wid any passenger we get. SOE nah guh really help.”

At the same time, residents in Homestead — where 44-year-old Nekisha Pottinger was shot dead on Wednesday — said the SOE alone will not be effective enough.

“That cyaan stop nothing. State of emergency nuh have a use. Police round deh suh and den man a dead roun the next lane. Only God we can depend pon,” said a 72-year-old woman.

Her 53-year-old neighbour agreed. She said residents have to be on alert for more gruesome crimes.

“Not even that [SOE] can stop it, me a tell you the truth. In a way, it calm it for a second, not for long. You don’t know who next on the list. Wi affi keep we eyes open; wi don’t know who next,” she said.

One hour after the SOE was declared, police arrested a wanted man and recovered an illegal firearm in the Gregory Park area of the St Catherine South Police Division.

During a press conference at Jamaica House early Friday, Holness pointed to rampant criminality and lawlessness and stressed that the terror being experienced in some communities was as a result of the organised criminal activities of gangs.

“The Government has to act. The Government cannot sit by and see innocent Jamaicans going about their business…having to be scurrying for their lives. The Government has to act — that is the Government’s duty,” he stated.

Vendors and motorists conduct their daily affairs on Cumberland Street in Spanish Town, St Catherine.
Police on patrol Friday in Homestead, the community just outside of Spanish Town where 44-year-old Nekisha Pottinger was shot dead this week.
Soldiers on duty in Spanish Town, St Catherine on Friday.
Roadblocks on Chambers Lane in Spanish Town, St Catherine
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