Mon | Oct 14, 2019

Human rats! … Night burglars plaguing downtown Kingston businesses

Published:Sunday | September 15, 2019 | 12:17 AMCorey Robinson - Staff Reporter
Operator of Wray & Nephew News Café on lower King Street shows where criminals broke into a gaming machine, hoping to find money inside.
Thieves cut through a roof grille to get into Two Lane Bar at the corner of Water and Peters lanes
A smashed window at Moby Dick on lower Orange Street
Downtown Kingston’s hip strip on the waterfront
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A year after the relocation of two nearby police posts and a burgeoning of new establishments on the Kingston waterfront, older business operators in the capital city say that they are being plagued by burglars who are seemingly outmatching the police.

In recent months, at least three long-standing companies in downtown Kingston have been burglarised by hoodlums, who cut through grilles, smash concrete walls, and shimmy their way through crevices into the establishments, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods.

“When the Flying Squad used to be around the corner, the place was a little safer because nobody would try to come and take anything. But since they left it is like the guys really don’t respect the police,” said the operator of the Two Lane Bar, located at the corner of Water and Peters lanes for more than three decades.

One customer described the burglars as human rats because of their sneakiness.

In 2013, the bar operator said she installed a metal grille under the roof to prevent the robbers from gaining access. That, however, did not stop them. In June, they cut through the grille, and made off with about $300,000 worth of goods, a television and a stereo system. This happened in the predawn hours, the operator theorised.

POLICE HELPLESS

“I’m still trying to get something from the police, but all now I can’t hear anything from them about it,” argued the operator, who, like many other owners, questioned the efficiency of sleuths at the City Centre Police Station, located metres away on Tower Street.

Head of the Kingston Central Police Division, Superintendent Robert Gordon, said that he was aware of the break-ins, but explained that many occur undetected by regular police patrols.

“It is not like it is happening in open view. Most of the times the robbers don’t enter the building through the doors. We find them going through the roof, or through some adjoining place, where walls are knocked out. So when the police do their regular patrols, they are not seeing what is happening. It is the following morning that you hear that there was a break-in,” he said, adding that investigators “use every tool possible, scientific or otherwise”, to find the perpetrators afterward.

“We are seeing new trends in break-ins. So business owners will have to become innovative, too, and put in place their own mechanisms,” noted Gordon, listing the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and the reinforcement of deteriorating walls as options.

The presence of CCTV cameras, however, did little to stop burglars who, weeks ago, unscrewed two light bulbs outside the Moby Dick restaurant and skipped around security cameras during an early- morning heist.

Co-owner of the restaurant, which has been a landmark on lower Orange Street for decades, accepted her fate and losses, and decided not to follow up with the police about their investigations into the incident.

“I don’t even worry myself about those things. It happened. I can’t change it,” she stated. “I am just happy they took nothing much. Nothing was here to take.”

The criminals made off with gift items, pots, and an empty money drawer, said the owner, noting that the robbery was the first in more than 15 years, and that it followed the relocation of the once-nearby offices of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Unit last year.

Operators at the nearby Wray & Nephew News Café on lower King Street also speculated that the removal of the police post has fuelled the brazenness of bandits. Criminals broke into that bar a month ago and made off with stocks, a television set, microwave, and sound system. They also broke into a gaming machine, hoping to find money inside.

“See it? Them all mash up the box, and me nuh know what they expected to find inside of it,” fumed the bartender, as she pointed to an empty television bracket on a nearby wall. “I don’t know what the police them doing. But it looks like dem not doing anything to me.”

Head of the Corporate Communications Unit, Assistant Superintendent Dahlia Garrick, joined Gordon in reassuring operators that the police had not neglected some areas in downtown Kingston in favour of the newly erected establishment on the waterfront.

“The movement of the police will have some impact on crime, but we still have police officers on the UDC building, so there are still police officers in the space,” she offered.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com