Clinton Pickering – Freelance Writer
Senior Superintendent of Police in charge of St. James, Vernon Ellis, is cautioning against a negative picture being painted of Montego Bay and its possible impact on tourism.
Speaking prior to last Saturday’s triple murder in Lilliput, he told parish councilors that information on crime must be put in perspective as “where we are in St. James now, even if we were having an increase in January 2022, we are significantly better off than where we were three, four years ago.”
He recalled that in January 2019, the parish had four murders “which was a first in 22 years” and that the annual figures have also been drifting downwards, “coming from 342 murders and we’re drifting down to 103, 127, 150, so we’re way off.”
SSP Ellis argued that “sometimes statistics frighten people” when a comparison is made. “What are we comparing it with? he asked, adding, “We’re comparing it with maybe one of our best years or one of our states of emergency best years.”
He said the aim was to have the murder rate down to zero but realistically it’s not going to be there given the numbers, but “I don’t want it to go out and when it go out now the tourists don’t want to come to Jamaica because they say Montego Bay, which is the tourist capital of the world or the pearl of the Caribbean, is having an increase.”
Urging that “We have to be kind of careful with the narrative,” SSP Ellis said he was seeing places like Canterbury being listed on Trip Advisor, a noted tourism online platform, among dangerous places when “in four years we’ve had zero incidents there.” And, he reiterated that “We will have to do something with the narrative that comes out of Montego Bay, considering the tourism product and what we have to deal with in MoBay.”
He cautioned against saying things like “we’re out of control; when you look at where were coming from; when you look at the gains and the benefit of the state of emergency, the added police assets, the transformation the force has put in place, and then you sell it as if it’s really the worsT place, just be careful with the narrative.”