Fear blankets Bedward Gardens - Recent killing of businessman sparks reprisal concerns
For the past year, Bedward Gardens has been among the most peaceful sections of August Town, St Andrew, with major crimes non-existent.
Bedward Gardens, also called 'River', was once home to two of the island's most notorious criminal organisations, the Dog Paw and Banton gangs, which engaged in a deadly feud, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
Now the community is slated to be recognised with a special award by the Sizzla Youth Foundation this week for no murders last year, but the recent killing of a respected figure in the area has left residents fearful that they could again face the dark days when gun violence made Bedward Gardens a place to avoid.
Reports are that 30-year-old Dwight Stewart, otherwise called 'FT', was ambushed and killed by gunmen in August Town on December 29.
The police, who responded to news of his killing, were reportedly fired on by the killers and returned the fire, fatally shooting one of them.
But that is not enough for some persons in Bedward Gardens, who last week were reportedly determined to go after his killer.
"One of the gunmen, a police kill him, so some man don't too satisfy with that. Some man feel dem definitely have to show them little youth deh a lesson. Is not one or two or three man a go feel it," one resident told The Sunday Gleaner.
However, the mother of Stewart's three-year-old child is among those begging for the peace to continue in Bedward Gardens without reprisals for his killing.
"Everybody know that him innocent. Nobody know why them kill FT. But I have to cope, you know. I have to do this for my kids," said the young woman.
In the meantime Kenneth Wilson, chairman of the Sizzla Youth Foundation, said although some gangsters in August Town have been going at each other in recent months, men from Bedward Gardens have managed to keep themselves out of the clashes, and that's why Stewart's murder came as a surprise to many.
"I am personally disappointed by it. It is pretty distressing, and it is not me alone, the entire community," said Wilson.
"Half of what transpired last year was because after the achievement in 2016 we dropped our hands. We allowed the little things to develop into big things," added Wilson.
He said the community groups are now doing everything in their power to restore August Town to its 2016 murder-free state.
That help is coming from the community groups is welcome news for Inspector Stephen Taylor, sub-officer in charge of the August Town Police Station.
He told our news team that the latest violence in August Town involves men from an area of the community known as 'Jungle 12' and a section off Bryce Hill Road, dubbed '19'.
Taylor said the August Town police has been receiving support from the Jamaica Defence Force and from a special unit from the St Andrew Central divisional headquarters to quell the upsurge.
Where those efforts fall short, Taylor is hoping that intervention from the churches and other groups within August Town will help to cool heads bent on vengeance.