Residents turned out in large numbers for a major gathering that included many high-ranking police and Ministry of National Security Officials in Belle Air 2, Runaway Bay, Thursday night, October 26
The Worship Center Church of God, perched atop the highest point in the community was packed and people overflowed onto the sidewalk and nearby street in the community better known as Crocodile City.
Several mentions were made of its lesser status and lack of resources compared to the neighbouring Belle Air. Most of the community has no electricity.
The purpose of the meeting was to get members of the community to understand and buy into changed behaviour and organization that will make and keep the community safe.
Acting assistant commissioner of police (ACP) Steve McGregor said the community could become the first Safe Community in Jamaica, under a programme set out by the Community Safety and Security Branch of the Force that he heads
To be so designated, the community needs to meet six particular criteria. He said the community had already achieved three of these: establishment of a police youth club, a consultative committee and a neighbourhood watch.
He said the community also had to establish a police supervised curfew programme for children to get off the streets by 9 p.m. It also has to establish a mentorship programme and have a school adopted by the police as a safe school.
The Safe Community programme is a proactive measure to prevent communities going in the direction where they would need a ZOSO.
Among those speaking at the event and hailing it as a big step for the community were ACP for Area II Norman Heywood; Superintendent Gary Francis, head of St Ann police, Mayor of St Ann’s Bay, Michael Belnavis, councillor for the area, Carlton Ricketts who was hailed by Mr McGregor and other police as being the catalyst for the efforts. Also speaking were Leroy Williams, representing the custos; and Celia Champagnie, representative from the Ministry of National Security and Richard Jones of the Housing Agency of Jamaica that owned the lots that make up the community. The event was coordinated by the St Ann Community Safety and Security Branch.