The timing of this latest episode on the problematic age old homeless MSM and transgender persons could not have been more timely as November is Homeless Awareness Month on this blog and sister blog GLBTQ Jamaica. The more things change the more they stay the same it seems or as I put it prior here we are again this old familiar place. While some of the members had moved or relocating to the previous problem area at Millsborough Avenue they were removed by police with the interventions of angry residents nearby earlier this year. Numerous robberies allegedly done by some of the men of smart phones in particular and also heterosexual culprits who make it bad by way of reputation for the MSM, it has turned out that some of the smart phones robberies are to supply a phone repair and scrapping network in downtown, Cross Roads and as far as Spanish Town and Portmore; the police has since dented that network for now as was carried on TVJ News two days ago.
Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams speaking at a town hall meeting in the New Kingston area November 3, 2016 he sought to assure residents who are complaining of persons at the gullies and drains in the district, namely the Shoemaker gully. He said among other things that some 12 persons are already serving some jail time for atrocities but no sooner they come out they return to a life of crime; he did not mention the ongoing cases in the St Andrew parish courts for example some of which are linked to alleged lotto scamming as persons get involved outside of the troublesome areas of St James and Westmoreland; he did not qualify his point in terms of who are actually doing the robberies of residencies but hinted to the sexual orientation excuse in his mind:
“We have some peculiar problems in New Kingston, I am not going to long I’m gonna cut to the chase, the New Kingston is a special place, it’s the premier business district in Jamaica ............. people of New Kingston you have something that needs protecting .......... we have certain problems that are unique to New Kingston, unique I say because I have never seen any other place where we have such a large concentration of people who hang out in gullies, yes, and who emerge out of these gullies; sometimes swarms of them emerge from these gullies and attack the people of New Kingston whether visitors or residents, we have so many complaints about these people and we have been trying forever.
We have to find a solution for them, in fact right now as we speak we are able to control the problem a little bit because we have almost a dozen of the more prolific ones in custody in St Andrew central and so things have subsided a bit.
But still we have them in the gullies; that is a problem the police and the citizens here are going to have to work assiduously to come up with a solution.”
The Commissioner now designates the homeless persons to that of insects in such a condescending fashion says a lot to me; he never gave any indications as to the numbers and actions taken or how many official reports that have come in, he admitted that the problem is not one for just law enforcement, he says there is a need to find proper housing and employment opportunities for the persons who frequent the gullies, this so they don’t have to resort to a life of crime but disturbingly he commented that the police does not see sexual orientation but individuals who are committing crime, maybe he was side stepping laying the blame in terms of response where it needs to be placed and that sexual orientation considerations must come to hand in order to propose or craft proper responses to some of this:
“There are very violent and I tell you some of them use their sexual orientation as a cover, we as a modern police force, we don’t see sexual orientation, we see them as a band of criminals and we want to work with the people in New Kingston to get rid of this band of criminals; it is not just a law enforcement problem it is also a social problem, because I think we going to have to find a way in which we can relocate them.”
The fact that the police post on Knutsford Boulevard there since 1998 or thereabout is to be relocated yet again as the owners of the building has issues a notice to quit by the end of the year; purse snatching bandits targeting women, alleged cross dressers being aggressive to the public with resultant clashes and only a limited 23 -25 officers with some of them seconded from other precincts to provide support and some from TPDco (Tourism Development Company) as the area is also seen as a tourism spot. But didn’t a previous Superintendent propose something in a formal document and went as far as clearing the Shoemaker Gully in December 2014 which was carried on CVM TV, where is that Superintendent now since then and why has the problem been allowed to regenerate and where oh where is JFLAG or the other outfits in all of this? Silly me I forgot there is no real interest in addressing this part of the equation despite so many years of some kind of organised advocacy, as I said in another for Homeless Awareness Month 2016:
“It is indeed a sad state of affairs when after some forty plus years of some kind of organized LGBT advocacy from Gay Freedom Movement to present, to include the HIV years in the 1990s and slow periods yet with all the hard and anecdotal evidence of stigma driven displacement and homelessness there is no proper response to same. The fundamental question as to why this is so is yet to be properly and honestly answered.”
Meanwhile the Commissioner also gave assurance not convincingly though that additional police have been and will be deployed to try to rid the streets of robbers. He admitted that not enough is being done to address numerous break-ins of properties in New Kingston. Frankly I have lost count as to the numerous issues in the business district namely and by the Cholera Cemetery where the last matter that came to hand was a stabbing incident on August 3, 2016 involving a cruiser and an allegedly homeless robber, the cruiser was stabbed on the right hand with an instrument of some kind; so the tense relationship between cruiser, clients of commercial sex workers and homeless/displaced MSM/transgender continues sadly.
The Commissioner also took note of the mistrust between the police and citizens, he is spot on on that one as reports still come in of all kinds of alleged corruption to include the ongoing hot matter of the aftermath of the so called ‘X6 murder’ of 17 year Kajil Mais some five years after the fact where the accused walked free although the suspected gun is missing and a witness who back peddled destroying the prosecution’s case in court. The missing gun and or refusal to turn over a firearm case is still in court which is slated for November 18. On our side of the fence reports still surface of cops seeking to shake down LGBT persons coming from events or cops claiming to be offering security services but when the night is over they pad the demands sometimes well over the agreed amounts the party promoter was willing or able to pay, under threat of exposing the venue and or promoter(s). Dr Williams claimed the high command has dismissed some corrupt cops, introduced polygraph tests of which some persons failed recently as he says he does not want the ‘wrong types’ he also said the force is looking at revamping its disciplinary machinery.
58 persons of the Jamaica Constabulary Force were trained in how to respond to gender based violence through sensitizations and workshops the officers learned about actions they could take to reduce GBV among different categories of women, the workshops focused on violence against HIV positive women, lesbians, bisexual and transgender women, female sex workers and women living with disabilities. Dr Carolyn Gomes Executive Director of Caribbean Vulnerable Coalition said that officers should use what they have learned to sensitize other colleagues as it should be replicable. Meanwhile ED of Jamaica aids Support for Life, JASL Kandasi Levermore also spoke to the matter in the response to GBV in public clinics with psychological interventions in service delivery, they were speaking at Alambra Inn where the graduation exercise took place. Problem with this as per usual notice that nowhere was MSM (men who have sex with men) mentioned even though they also have some serious issues of intimate partner violence with some visible outcomes at times, the NGOs still it seems do not want to get their hands too dirty from direct engagement with some groups and issues. That humanitarian spark feels missing these days from some quarters and it seems more about systematic driven momentum and careers more so than anything else, who really cares? Nice social media pages with photos of ‘workshops’ but it seems to be so limited a few and puts a farce of a reality with bettered or altered versions of the actual reality.
Some private interventions are ongoing by some with what is often described as ‘couch surfing’ which is not nearly enough and mistrust issues in that department continues with an ongoing court case of a lecturer being extorted by a man who hailed from Maxfield Avenue and a suspicious murder case of a doctor recently where a 17 and a 19year old were charged yesterday for the crime, as more information comes forth more anon on this blog.
meanwhile earlier this year:
Peace & tolerance
also see: Homeless Awareness Month 2016 issues and Homeless Awareness Month 2016 issues part 2