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Westmoreland businesses lock shop as robbery sprees trigger fear

Published:Saturday | December 2, 2023 | 12:11 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
A section of the Little London square in Westmoreland.
A section of the Little London square in Westmoreland.


Criminals have been relieving several Westmoreland businesses of their daily sales in a number of robbery sprees in the commercial spaces of Negril, Good Hope and other major towns in the parish since the start of this week.

On Friday, armed robbers held up and robbed four business establishments – three bars and a supermarket – between Orange Hill and Nampariel Road in the Negril space, making off with an undetermined sum of money, game boxes, and top-shelf liquors.

And on Wednesday night, Davroy Barnes, a 37-year-old disc jockey known as ‘DJ Myrie’ from Mango Hall in Westmoreland, was shot dead while sitting in his car at a party in Little London. Robbers reportedly drove up and proceeded to rob patrons before opening fire on the deejay. He was pronounced dead at hospital.

The incidents have heightened fear among business owners, and prompted calls for a state of emergency (SOE) in the parish.

“Right now, everybody is running scared because the belief is it is the same set of youngsters that are going around stealing cars and going around robbing,” Elaine Bradley Allen, president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), told The Gleaner.

She said that the latest surge is scary and business owners are pondering how best to protect themselves and their establishments.

“I think it would be nice if we have the SOE back in Westmoreland,” said Bradley Allen, noting that the trauma on the family of those being killed is horrendous.

“And the powers that be need to do something drastic and dramatic, never mind the human rights groups, the people they are robbing and killing, they do have rights,” the chamber boss insisted.

She said that while these robberies are not immediately expected to affect the increased number of tourists that are now in Negril for the annual Reggae Marathon on Sunday, care must be taken to prevent any possible impact.

“It’s a rampage which is not looking good. And right now in Negril, we have visitors from over 23 countries for the marathon on Sunday,” the NCCI president stated.

Outside of that concern, Bradley Allen said it’s ironic that the criminal activities are taking place now, just weeks ahead of the Christmas holidays.

“Christmas is not even here yet and all these things are happening all over the place. What is going to happen in the festive season? Why are we killing each other?” she questioned.

Morland Wilson, member of parliament for Westmoreland Western, where the majority of the robbery mayhem is taking place, said the recent spate of events is unprecedented.

Speaking with reporters last night, he said there is sufficient evidence to have another round of SOE.

Wilson also noted that the enhanced security measure is needed, and if not for the entire parish, it should be declared for his constituency.

“In fact, all my five divisions have been suffering from this form of activity by these hoodlums,” he said. “Over 20 individuals in several vehicles are now going into communities and robbing people. This is something unprecedented; it’s something that we as citizens are now fearful of.”

Deputy Superintendent of Police Adrian Hamilton, who heads the operations portfolio in the Westmoreland Police Division, said the police have been kept busy tracking the crooks.

“These men are using different tactics in the book. They are using motorcycles as advanced lookout points, they are travelling in vehicles that they robbed from other people and changed their licence plates to distract the police,” Hamilton told The Gleaner.

He said they are also engaging in prank calls to the police as a diversion.

“I am confident that it’s only a matter of time before we crush the latest surge, which we believe is being committed by greedy, reckless terrorists who are hell-bent on creating mayhem in the parish,” Hamilton declared.

He said the parish has since received additional support from Area One and other specialised formations of the police force to help combat the new wave of criminal activities.

But even with heightened security presence, business owners took precautionary measures by closing their business as earl;y as 4 p.m. on Friday.

When The Gleaner visited the Little London, Good Hope and Nampariel Road communities last evening, the busy towns represented graveyards as fear drove people off the streets.

A bar owner in Little London has labelled as “madness” the police response to the robbery incidents.

“If the music is too loud, it takes the police less than a minute to reach my shop. But any time an incident happens at my shop, it takes them an hour and a half to move,” said a male business owner, who asked that his identity not be revealed.

“Mi call five police [on Thursday] when the incident happened in the square, and you know what, the man them told me they are too far. Another man said he is by the garage with the [service] vehicle a check on his personal vehicle. A madness this,” the Little London businessman stated.