Too close an encounter.
Jay was tired. Throughout the evening his parent’s friends had been partying away. It was a week before Christmas and his father was keeping a ‘bring a bottle’ party. His mother had prepared finger food for everyone, and apart from being well tired, Jay was stuffed full.
Jay was eleven years old and in first form at Campion College, but even so he had taken a drink of his father’s Scotch. Johnnie Walker. Jay didn’t like it but he drank half the glass anyway. Since that night, Jay has never drunk Scotch again, didn’t like the smell or the taste. His father was a Scotch man, having one glass every evening after work at 6:00 pm. Never before.
Jay said goodnight to his mother and the people she was talking to and went to bed.
His sisters had already gone upstairs to their bedroom, secured by a grilled locked gate at the foot of the stairs. Jay slept downstairs, near to his parent’s room. There was a jackfruit tree outside his bedroom window, and Jay had got used to the smell that filled his room. Got used to it, but as Scotch, never liked it, and to this day he has never tried jackfruit, remembering the smell outside his bedroom window every time he sees one.
Outside the room, in the garden, but on a slightly higher level, Jay saw some party people talking and drinking by the swing.
He lay in bed, looking through the open curtains at the garden on three levels. It was big, the house was big.
Sometime later he woke. There were people in his room. Jay thought it must be his father showing a friend around the house and he mumbled good night and rolled over facing the wall. Next thing Jay felt was a glove over his mouth and a voice he didn’t know telling him to be quiet. A flashlight was turned on and Jay saw three men. Right away he saw a crowbar in the hands of the tallest of the three.
One man was holding Jay’s model flintlock gun. Jay had built it from a set and it sat in its own cradle on a small desk. It was made of plastic,
and Jay had spent hours gluing it together and painting it. Jay told the man it was only a toy, the man looked at the model gun again and put it down quietly.
The shortest man told him to get up and Jay did. He was not going to argue. He got up, wearing his pyjama bottoms only, and the short man held him by his arm and led him out the room, into the living room, past the bar and dining room and outside onto the big back open patio.
They moved him in front of a wall where Jay used to sit and draw, and write. Jay was cold. He remembers the cold. And he remembers the knives, ratchet knives. Two of the men had ratchet knives in their hands. Jay had one hidden in his room but his parents didn’t know he had one. He had bought it at the little grocery shop in Constant Spring. The short man let him go then and asked where the money was.
Jay said what money and realised the men thought people paid to come to the party. He said to the short man that it wasn’t that kind of party, everyone just carried a drink, a bottle. Everything was free.
The crowbar tall man looked menacingly at Jay and said let’s kill him now. Jay looked at him puzzled and replied don’t bother with that. The short man smiled at Jay’s remark, and said they are not going to kill him.
Up to now, Jay was not afraid. And he still was not afraid. He was more annoyed than anything else. Later would be time to be afraid, but not now. Now he was just cold. The night air was cold.
The short man laughed quietly and said again they weren’t going to hurt Jay, they just wanted the money. Jay replied that there is no money. The short man held Jay again by his arm and walked back into the house, the other two following behind Jay and the short man. Jay knew the short man was the leader.
They went straight to the room down the passageway from Jay’s room, and as they were opening the door Jay called out loud. He got punched in the back of his head and pushed into the room. By then his father was out of bed, and his mother was getting up, both seeing quickly what was happening.
Jay knew his father did not have a gun. His mother started shouting at the top of her voice then, as did his father. No matter how the men pushed and told them to shut up, they kept on shouting. The house was big though, the garden was big. Jay wondered if any neighbours would hear.
The men had no time to look through drawers or anything as there was so much noise now. Jay thought the neighbours must hear. He watched as two men grabbed his mother and pulled her out the room, leaving crowbar tall man with Jay and his father. Jay saw his father box the tall man, and grab onto him. The man hit him with the crowbar, on his father’s raised arm.
Jay was scared now. And he shouted.
His father pushed down the tall man, kicked him hard in his jaw and ran out the room, Jay following as fast as he could. Shouting. Through the living room and to the long dining room with the long dark mahogany dining table, Jay saw his mother with her back to the bar, lifting a bottle of rum in her right hand, the short man struggling with her.
As she lifted the bottle to hit the short man, he brought the ratchet knife down hard, slicing her forehead.
His mother dropped the bottle. In slow motion, or that’s how it seemed at the time, Jay watched as his father scooped up the bottle before it hit the ground, and holding the neck smashed the bottom part on the bar. He moved towards the two men, everything happening in an unreal frightening slow motion, the jagged bottle in his father’s extended arm, slashing as if to stab them in their faces or necks.
Jay did not even know that the tall man had run out the room behind them, but all he saw was three men forcing themselves out the double doors they must have broken into earlier. Two pairs of shoes stayed at the doorway. Jay figured one of the men had kept on his shoes. He smiled.
And then it was quiet, real quiet, his father pressing a rum soaked bar cloth on his mother’s forehead wound while calling the Constant Spring Police. His mother kept telling him to stop pressing so hard, it was no big thing. Jay wondered how she knew, when all he could see was the cloth, now dark red, drops of blood spilling onto his mother’s nightie.
Jay walked onto the back patio, looking to see if the men were still around. He walked as far as the swing. No one. He walked to the neighbour’s three strand barbed wire fence. No one.
The Police came to the house. The station was about ten minutes away. The officers walked around the property, along the partial fence lines, guns in their hands.
The side of the house on Stillwell Road only had hibiscus plants as a barrier, and there was an opening with concrete steps leading from the road to the back patio. The driveway from Old Stony Hill Road did not have a gate.
The Police said the men walked from the top corner, where the neighbour’s house met ours. They showed Jay the footprints and cigarette butts. There was a spliff end as well. The Police said it looked as if they had been there a while, watching, waiting.
The Police left one of their team, the Sergeant saying they would pick him up in the morning. Jay thought that was good of them.
Jay’s sisters were still asleep. His mother said leave them alone, they could hear all about it in the morning. At breakfast four hours later they sat in awe as Jay told them what had happened.
During the day friends of his parents came around. They all wanted to speak to Jay. They wanted to hear his story. He was the star. He didn’t feel like a star. Everyone said how brave he was. Jay didn’t feel brave. Jay thought his father was the star. And the brave one.
Jay remembers Miss P the most. She always had something good to say to Jay, to say about Jay. Even in his rude boy days later on, and after. Always a kind word, encouragement. To this day. Always making Jay feel good about himself.
Jay was just glad it was all over. And no one was hurt badly. His mother’s wound had been stitched by the family doctor who came around early on his way to work. Nine stitches.
One week later Jay’s father took him to the Constant Spring Police Station. When they got there the Officer in Charge told them that he was going to take them into a room where two men would be sitting on a bench. Jay and his father were to pretend they were asking about a missing car, but they were to look at the men and see if they recognised them, if they were the same men who had broken into their house.
When they walked into the room, there were two other Police Officers there, and two men sitting on chairs. Both men were bleeding badly from their mouths and noses. Both had bruised and swollen eyes. Jay noticed they were handcuffed to the metal bench. The bench was anchored to the ground as well.
Jay glanced at the men, so did his father. They asked the officer about their stolen car. The officer said they were looking for it.
Jay and his father looked at the men again and then left the room. The Officer in Charge asked if they recognised the men. Neither Jay nor his father had. The officer said they would process the men some more. Jay understood what he meant.
To this day, Jay does not know whether the men he was shown were the men who had broken into their house. There was no repeat and they lived there for 5 more years. And the fence stayed as it was, with no gate on Stillwell Road and no gate at the driveway on Old Stony Hill Road. The tall guinep tree in the corner of the two roads, and bougainvillea lining the front fence.
Jay passes the house now and then. It has not changed, still no gate at the driveway. The garden has got smaller with two other houses built on it, and someone got rid of the guinep tree, replacing it with a solitary tall fir. And the bougainvillea still lines the front fence along Old Stony Hill Road, though the once low block wall is now partially collapsing.
And Jay smiles every time he drives past the house, thinking about his family, his parents no more, and his sisters abroad. Jay remains in Jamaica. It is his home.
Ecclesiastes 1:9. ‘The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun’.
Jay stood by the gate, the white painted column to his right and the tall bushy tamarind tree at his back, both blocking him from walk foot and vehicle traffic passing by, allowing him to see everything happening on the road without anyone seeing him. These were rough times and Jay liked to keep a low profile. It was Friday night, four weeks before Christmas and two weeks before the 1976 general elections and Jay was waiting for his friend Blacka to pick him up. Jay just knew Blacka would pick him up, just like he did every Friday night and they would travel together through Kingston.
Jay had met Blacka when he needed a radiator repair man – he found him on Eastwood Park Road and Blacka fixed his Ford Anglia. Their spirits took to each other, and often times they would just sit and drink a Heineken, smoke a spliff and talk about things. Two years after their first meeting, Jay sold Blacka the Anglia – not working for 6 months, he needed the extra cash to tide him over, and used some of the money to buy an old black Honda S90 to get around on, not a ride to be wandering through Kingston on a Friday night.
Jay was 21 years old, and still hidden by the column and the tall tree, razor sharp in his black Arrow shirt, tailor made lengths and Clark’s desert boots, he started musing on friendships. He learnt early in life that when you have cash in your pocket, then friends are a dime a dozen – you can buy them a beer, or a spliff, or put on a chalice or two, or pay for them to go to a dance, but when you’re not earning you don’t see them.
Blacka was different. Blacka was the one who would check Jay now and then and see he was okay. Blacka would just pass by sometimes and give Jay a $2 note, sometimes more. And always a Heineken.
And then he heard the Anglia coming, the big muffler pulsing along Mannings Hill Road by Mary Brown’s Corner. Jay fixed his brown Kangol beret tighter on his head, walked out and got into the Anglia as Blacka pulled over by the column. Out and away before the car even fully stopped. Synchronised steppa!
Blacka handed him a Heineken. And a $2 bill. Jay said thanks, but knew he didn’t have to. Blacka was just like that, he knew Jay would buy him a beer, it was how they moved.
Down Constant Spring Road, over Sandy Gully bridge, past busy plazas and into Half Way Tree, calling out to the dreads selling pants lengths by the sidewalk, Blacka turning onto Hagley Park Road. Half Way Tree was alive.
Down the road to Three Miles, the roundabout was clear, Blacka held a second gear and the brown and white Anglia purred in and then out onto Marcus Garvey Drive and over the train line.
Blacka said he wanted to date a Twelve Tribes of Israel girl, said he liked how they moved and reasoned. Jay smiled. Jay had carried Blacka to a few Jah Love Musik sessions – Ilawi the selector and Brigadier Jerry as DJ. Blacka had been fascinated by the women with their red, gold and green wraps and their long dresses.
They turned left into Industrial Terrace and then into Tivoli. West Kingston. Tivoli was a maze of roads, and Jay knew if he had to find his own way out he would be in trouble. They parked near to a group of men sitting around a small burning fire and got out the car, the smell of ganja all around and smoke from a chalice drifting ever upwards into the dark of the night sky.
Jay sat on a concrete block to the left of a standing man in a white string vest, a huge shining gun tucked in his waist. The man held a coconut chalice in his left hand, and chanted ‘Fire bun Joshua, kill, cramp and paralyse Michael MenLie and all socialist conception, praises ever to Uncle Eddie’, before blazing the cup, hiding his upper body and head in smoke when he exhaled.
A little apprehensive when he was handed the chillum, Jay took a couple sips of the cup before passing it to his left. He was desperately hoping the chalice would not burn out on him on its return, as Jay knew he would have to light a fresh cup while giving praises. Lighting a chillum took effort, and he figured the men would be listening to every word he said. Blacka sat quietly smiling. He was enjoying himself. He knew Jay was not into politics.
They spent a couple of hours with the group, some of the men talking about politics and how the government was mashing up the country. They talked about destroying their enemies. Jay listened, nodding his head now and then when someone caught his attention with a comment.
He didn’t say much, the herb and the Heineken in his head. It’s how Jay got, a little withdrawn, and a little deep into his thoughts, thoughts now of how the political elite was wrecking Jamaica, how they brought about the tribalism that had the poor fighting and killing each other for the spoils and political patronage. He despised the politicians. They were not leaders, they were not teachers, they were vampires, only caring for what was in their own best interest, no real love for the poor of the land, making themselves rich off the back and sweat of the poor through corruption.
Jay looked up and saw Blacka talking to the man in the white string vest, the huge .357 magnum glistening in the firelight.
The next moment they were on the move again, back into the Anglia, out of Tivoli, and about 14 minutes later they drove into Arnett Gardens, lovingly called Jungle. Concrete Jungle. Another garrison community, this time allied to the government in power.
Jay sat quietly, pondering, thinking this is so near general elections and he and Blacka have driven only 14 minutes from a labourite stronghold to a socialist one.
Garrisons. Guns. Gangs. In both communities.
He shook his head and must have sighed as Blacka asked him if everything was okay.
Before Jay could respond, a dreadlocked man with three upper gold teeth, each one sparkling with a diamond shaped coloured glass – red, gold and green – got up off a stool outside a small bar on a corner and walked over to the Anglia. The dread smiled warmly and Jay realised he had met him before, but he couldn’t remember where. The dread’s teeth flashed briefly yet brightly in the glare of a street light, and he beckoned Jay and Blacka to come.
Jay got out the car and the dread took them through the bar and out the back door, picking up three Red Stripe beers from a small fridge on the counter of the bar, telling the shapely bar lady to keep a look out. Behind the bar was a yard and house, and sitting around were 5 young men, all about Jay’s age, music playing quietly from two large speaker boxes set diagonally from one another. A sixth man was playing the music. Jay remembered hearing ‘Silhouettes’ by Dennis Brown. Three dogs were lying by a mango tree at the side of the house. Minding their own business, every now and then giving a low growl, as if to say don’t worry we are not sleeping.
One of the men was cleaning a sawn-off shotgun, his upper body and head moving to the music. He worked methodically. With pride.
The dread called a youngster and told him to bring the board and chalice. Jay thought not again, he was already quiet enough, but knew he would have to join in. The Red Stripe beer was going down a treat, no more after this one Jay said to himself.
Dennis Brown again with ‘If I follow my heart’. The music was background. Nice calm lovers’ music, and Jay was enjoying himself. Being a little away from the main was good, hidden behind the bar offering solitude and distance from passing people.
The dread was now seated and cutting up the herb, the youngster who had brought it from behind the house sitting next to him. The dread introduced him as his son, he must have been about ten years old. His name was Marcus. Jay looked at the youngster who nodded his head at him. Jay nodded back. He liked it here.
Jay saw the chalice, made of grey PVC plastic and shaped like a V. Vikings? The dread blessed the offering, this time no political chants, just praises to the Highest, asking for protection from the forces of evil. Jay felt better. Much better.
The man cleaning the shotgun pushed a Honda 50 big head from the side of the house, and with the shotgun wrapped in a cloth hailed up everyone and went through a zinc side gate and out onto the road. Jay asked the dread if he would be okay, and the dread told him he was not going far, just down the road, and the area was well guarded. Jay nodded.
But he knew deep down that the shotgun was to be used in the tribal wars, whether for attack or defense. A shudder ran through him. Politics again. The so called political elite, using poor people for their ends and means. Jay hated them and what they had caused, what they were causing.
The cup was passed around, the music playing. This time Bob Marley’s Concrete Jungle, still background. Jay was deep in thought and felt a gentle touch on his right arm. He looked around and saw the dread passing him the cup, looked into his sad yet kind and gentle eyes and remembered he had met him on Long Lane, opposite the National Water Commission treatment plant. He and Blacka had given him a drive down the hill to Constant Spring. It was the eyes, the sadness that Jay saw deep within them then, and saw now, the same silent sad struggle that Jay could only wonder about. He liked the dread, a kindred spirit, a nomad walking through the trails, and trials & tribulations, of this life.
Jay knew he would be back. After elections, though. He was going to speak to Blacka, as moving like they did back and forth between ‘east and west’, between capitalism & socialism, was not safe. Too easy a target as political tribalism was just too raw, too contrived, poor people fighting for their lives and existence, for money and contracts, at the beck and call of the big man.
They both said their goodbyes and left the yard and bar, the dread’s son Marcus following them to the Anglia. Protection. It was a silent drive back to Constant Spring Road, apart from the deep purr of the car. No roadblocks tonight. Jay was glad.
When Jay was getting out of the car, Blacka said he wanted to go to the Twelve Tribes HQ next week. Jay said sure, but no more east and west for now, elections were too near. Blacka agreed.
Forty years later Jay looks back in history at Jamaica and its lack of growth, its indiscipline and criminality, it’s number 5 ranking in the world for per capita murders, it’s below standard education and its endless poverty, and he still blames and despises the political elite, those who brought tribal war to the land of wood and water, who keep the people impoverished for their own means, for votes, who all lived, and live, grown fat in their grilled & alarmed uptown houses while they manipulate the poor and less educated, the oppressed of the land.
And Jay knows that very little has changed in those 40 years. Cosmetic changes. The poor are still poor. And uneducated. What a waste of years.
With a sad and sombre look in his eyes, remembering the dread with the gold teeth, Jay thinks things may never change.
‘The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun’.
“For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down”. Psalms 91 verse 11 to 13
Jay was an 18-year-old uptown rebel, just finished school and hanging out at herb camps. He had borrowed a friend’s Honda 500 Four for the weekend. Lovely bike, great sound, rode like a dream. His friend had borrowed Jay’s Ford Anglia.
On Sunday, Jay picked up another friend, Louman, and after burning a chalice at Sonny Beard’s in Brooks Level, they decided to ride to Cable Hut beach for a swim, a Heineken and some curry goat. They set out at about 1:30pm from Stony Hill. The road was Sunday quiet all the way through Kingston, down Mountain View, along Rockfort and onto the dual carriageway, the Honda 400 purring like a lion, past the Flour Mills and straight into a road block!
The Police pulled him over, and Jay got off the bike and handed them the papers, explaining he did not have his licence with him. The Inspector asked for his name and Jay told him it was John Peterson [the actual owner of the bike]. He asked him where he lived, and of course Jay gave him John’s address. The Inspector smiled and told Jay to sit in the ‘jump-out’, an ‘endearing’ and feared term for the Landrovers with the open back – they enabled the Police to ‘jump out’ quickly if there was a problem on the roads!
When Jay asked him why, he just smiled again and told Jay he was not being straight with him.
Jay begged Louman to get someone to bail him out, no family, and sat in the Land Rover. There were already 3 people there and after about 30 minutes they set off, reaching the Rockfort Police Station in about 10 minutes, Police officers riding the 4 motorbikes, dollying in and out of traffic as if they rode every day. Jay and the three men were all led to the guard room and told to sit down.
After about three hours at Rockfort station, the jump-out returned and they were told to get back in. When Jay asked where they were going, the Inspector said ‘Central Police Station’. In horror Jay said quietly ‘Just for riding my bike without my licence?’. The Inspector only smiled again.
Twenty minutes later and they pulled into Central Police Station, an old brick building constructed in the days of colonial rule, surrounded by a tall red brick wall, the bricks shipped all the way from England.
They were told to get out, and were led to a desk where sat two huge Sergeants – they wrote everyone’s name in a log book and were escorted up a flight of stairs and along a corridor to a metal grilled gate. When their escort turned the key, all Jay heard from inside was ‘Hey, bring Jakes here’ and ‘I want Jakes as my boy tonight’ – cups rattling across the bars of the cells.
Jay thought this was it, he was in trouble now. He was going to have to fight all night.
And then he heard a voice, ever so calm, ever so sure. One of the men who was stopped at the roadblock, a tall commanding figure, maybe 40 years of age, in his quiet gravely tone said ‘Youngster, don’t worry about anything, you are with me. Those meagre dogs are just barking”.
As they passed the first three cells, those who were shouting out went very silent and stepped back into the dark rank shadows of the cells as the tall man passed, with Jay right by his side, almost tucking himself under the tall man’s shoulder. When they reached the fourth cell, it was opened and the four of them were ushered inside. There were already three people in a cell built for two. They key turned loudly behind them.
The tall giant seemed to know everyone – no, everyone knew him. And awe and respect filled the cell, almost like the morning mist on the Blue Mountains. They all talked for a while, not about anything in particular, just passing time. Dinner came, bun and cheese with syrup and water. Jay gave away his to two brothers who shared the cell. They had told him they had been there for two weeks without being charged.
Jay sat down to a long night, wondering if Louman had found someone to bail him, but then he remembered it was Sunday, no bail on a weekend. It seemed like it was really going to be a long night. The feeling of not being free to move more than 8 feet in any direction was oppressive.
A few hours later, nodding off with his back against a wall, Jay heard a key turn, then another, and then a voice calling for John Peterson. Heart beating, Jay called back, and one of the huge sergeants told him to get up. He did, and the Sergeant unlocked the cell door. Jay said goodbye to everyone, and shook the hand of his tall unknown saviour.
They walked downstairs. The sitting Sergeant looked at Jay and said ‘Now tell me your real name, or I will send you back upstairs’. Jay did so sheepishly and the two Sergeants laughed and said “If your mother was not such a nice lady, you would be in here until Monday”. When Jay heard the word mother, he shook.
He walked outside into the night air, a cool breeze blowing off the ocean – Louman and his mother waiting by the car, his mother as silent as the night. Louman said he couldn’t get anyone else. Jay shrugged his shoulders and got into the car. It was a very quiet drive to Louman’s house and then home.
A week later Jay met his tall man once more, at the traffic court. Twenty of them were lined up in front of the judge. Twenty of them were fined $50. Twenty of them lined up outside to pay their fines. Jay only had $49.50, as he had bought a ten pack of Craven A for 50 cents on his way to court. He knew he was going back into a cell.
A hand touched his shoulder, and he looked around into the kind eyes of the tall man, handing him 50 cents.
When Jay had paid, and was leaving, he looked at his tall man and nodded his head, mouthing the words “Thank you”. The tall man put his hand to his heart and nodded back at him.
Forty-three years later Jay still doesn’t know his tall man’s name, but remembers his kindness, his strength. And his silent authority. For those two moments in his life, Tall Man was Jay’s ‘angel, guarding him in all his ways’.
And he wished he had got to know him then.
“In ourselves our safety must be sought. By our own right hand it must be wrought” – William Wordsworth, 1770 to 1850.
What about car safety?
- Ensure its roadworthy at all times.
- Keep the gas tank full at all times.
- Spare tyre and accessories in good working order.
- Small fire extinguisher within reach.
- Working flashlight.
- Local road map.
- Make sure the car is insured and has all statutory requirements
- Keep a list of all emergency telephone numbers.
On the move?
- When getting in or out your vehicle, look around.
- LOCK your door once you get in your vehicle.
- Watch for motorcycles that stop next to your vehicle, particularly if there are two riders.
- Always park with the front of the vehicle facing out.
- Communicate travel plans and arrangements to close friends or associates.
- Avoid routine. Learn different routes to and from places you regularly travel to or visit.
- Keep car doors locked and windows closed except for essential ventilation. If travelling alone, ensure the passenger windows are up and all doors locked.
- Do not offer a lift, or open doors or windows to anyone.
- Do not get too close to the vehicle in front of you. When you stop in traffic give yourself enough space so you can move without having to wait for the vehicle in front of you to do so.
- Do not stop to provide assistance if you see an accident. Call the Police.
- When at traffic lights, do not open purses or wallets in front of windscreen cleaners or newspaper sellers. Keep small change in the ashtray or dashboard.
- Keep on busy main roads and thoroughfares, especially at night.
- Put all bags, packages, briefcases etc., on the floor, preferably under the seat and out of sight.
- If travelling to rural areas try to restrict travel to daylight hours.
- If you are on the road late at night or early in the morning (before daylight) do the following at traffic lights:
- If the lights are red, stop and proceed forward cautiously, keeping the car in a low gear and in readiness to move off if it becomes necessary. If there are no vehicles approaching, keep driving. If there is a Police car present, abide by regular rules of the road. Watch for persons hanging around or loitering.
- Learn to avoid areas prone to trouble.
- Stay out of depressed communities, and away from routs you don’t know, especially at night.
- When parking your vehicle at restaurants, bars or clubs, park in sight of the security personnel or in car parks manned by security personnel. Ask for an escort to your vehicle when leaving.
- When approaching your vehicle always have the door and ignition key in your hand. Remember to lock your car doors once you are inside.
- At all night entertainment locations, whether restaurant, club, bar, etc., there are numerous entrepreneurs/hustlers who will offer to watch or wash your vehicle for you. If you do not require this service say so firmly and politely. If you are going to tip them do not display wallets, purses, etc.
- If your vehicle is hit at night do not stop and get out of your vehicle. Drive to the nearest Police Station and make a report. If it is possible identify the vehicle that ran into you, but not if you put yourself at risk.
On the way home?
- If on returning home there are any strangers at or near your gate, do not stop. Call the Police immediately.
- Take notice of vehicles driving behind you. If the same vehicle has been with you for a while do not stop at your gate. It is better to drive around the block to ensure your safety.
- Cellular phones should be carried at all times. Ensure batteries are fully charged. Do not leave cellular phones in parked vehicles.
- DO NOT USE your cellular while driving. You easily lose 50% of your concentration and become a danger to other road users & pedestrians.
- Always carry a small amount of cash that can be handed over if confronted by robbers. Do not overtly display valuable personal property such as jewellery, cameras, etc.
- Avoid confrontation if at all possible.
Just a few weeks to go (at the time of writing there are only 34 days) and Christmas is here again, and it’s the time of year when apart from the joys of GIVING, it’s also the time of TAKING – for thieves.
So be careful when out & about, be careful when shopping, and be careful when visiting restaurants and bars.
When faced with problems on the streets, most people are too stunned to do anything. Few of us think about our personal safety while traveling from place to place, so do something now to counter any threat. Often it is a quick and aggressive, pre-planned response that’s life saving – even if our actions are not perfect.
Consider options in advance, so a surprise is less likely, allowing you to do something quickly & confidently, changing the outcome of an event.
PRACTISE SECURE THINKING & PLANNING
- Be aware that it’s possible.
- Be alert to what’s happening around you.
- Have a few simple plans in the back of your mind to meet different problems.
- Once a threat is developing, act quickly & CONFIDENTLY.
- There is no point carrying around too much personal information that may leave you open to IDENTITY THEFT. Crooks would love to get their hands on your personal details to apply for credit in your name.
- Clear your wallet and handbag of everything except essential items. Do you really need to be walking around with your passport as well as your National ID card, all your credit & debit cards, driving licence, bank statements, credit & debit card receipts etc.?
- Is the ATM in a secure area? Are the environs well lit?
- Lock the door when you are using an ATM machine.
- Ensure that no one can see you entering your password. Cover the keypad with a free hand.
- Withdraw money during the day instead of late at night or in the dark early morning hours.
SHOPPING & ON THE ROAD
- Keep bags closed and carry them securely. The best way is in front of you with the strap secured over your shoulder
- Do not walk around talking on your cellular. If you have to make a call, be brief. Better yet, step into a shop and finish your call.
- STOP driving around chatting away on your cellular oblivious to everything & everyone around you. Is the call really important enough for you to selfishly endanger yourself and others on the road?
- Do not listen to personal stereos when walking on the road or in the plazas.
- Do you think someone is following you? Go inside a shop.
- Do not take short cuts through car parks/alleyways. Stay on the main, and amongst people.
- If walking on your own and someone is bothering you, find safety in numbers/in an office/in a shop. Do not be shy about talking loudly. MAKE NOISE! And lots of it! People will hear and come to your assistance.
- Separate the money you carry – leave larger bills hidden. Always carry a small amount of cash that can be handed over if confronted by robbers.
- Have the keys in your hand when you approach your car, with the pointed part protruding through your fingers. Do NOT stop at the door searching for the keys.
- Manage bags in your hand – keep one hand free at all times.
- Place bags and shopping in the trunk of the car, or on the floor behind you, well out of sight of passers by.
- Lock car doors the minute you get inside.
- Keep car windows up far enough so that no one can push their hands inside and unlock the door.
- Walk in the middle of the sidewalk, away from the edge of the road and passing vehicles/motorbikes/bicycles. And stand back from the curb when crossing the street.
- Look out for motorbike riders, especially when there are 2 people.
- If a car stops and someone inside calls you over, keep your distance and keep walking.
- When you get home ensure you have the door keys IN YOUR HAND. It is foolish to be waiting at the door while searching for your keys. If they’re in your bag or pocket, then they’re no use to you whatsoever.
- If you have a padlock on the grill, do you always place it in the same position so that you automatically know what way to be pushing the key into the padlock?
- Have you done a lot of shopping? Rather than filling both hands with bags and struggling to find the front door keys, make a few trips instead. And as you get into your house lock the door.
- Carry a personal attack alarm. Or a loud whistle.
- Going to a restaurant or a bar? Park in the restaurant’s car park. Is there adequate security? Find out!! And ask for an escort to your car, as all good places provide security as part of their customer service.
- Even if you’re in a hurry, look around before exiting a vehicle.
- Keep to busy main roads especially at night.
- Do not get too close to the vehicle in front of you. When you stop in traffic give yourself enough space so you can drive off without having to wait for the vehicle in front of you to move.
- Do not stop to provide help if you see an accident. Call the Police.
- When stopped at traffic lights, do not open purses or wallets in front of windscreen cleaners/vendors/newspaper sellers. Keep small change in the ashtray or dashboard.
- At all nightspots, whether restaurant, club, bar, etc., there are those who will offer to watch your car. If you do not require this service say so firmly and politely. If you are going to tip them do not display wallets, purses, etc. ALWAYS KEEP SMALL CHANGE READILY AVAILABLE.
- If there are any strangers/cars at or nearby your gate when you get home, do not stop to investigate. Call the Police. Take notice of vehicles driving behind you. If the same vehicle has been with you for a while do not stop at your gate. It is better to drive around the block to ensure your safety.
- If you get a puncture late at night, rim your vehicle to a secure area (nearby hotel, gas station, Police Station, etc) rather than stop and attempt to change the tyre.
There is too much going on for us to take a nonchalant attitude to life.
ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings. For overall security, including your own personal safety, pay close attention to everything around you. Being absorbed in a book, cellular call, personal music player, newspaper, or other distractions can give thieves significant opportunity to approach, study, and strike.
Look at the people and environment around you. Notice things out of the ordinary. A good sense of what is normal and what is unusual in your surroundings could be more important than any other type of security precaution you may take.
START THINKING CONSCIOUSLY about safety & security, about protecting yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbours, your work colleagues and your community.
GET INVOLVED, GET AWARE AND GET ACTIVE.
What a night, visiting the site, watching two armed guards play drafts in the cool of the early morning while a third stood in the shadows, shotgun in hand. It was two ‘o’ clock and not even the moon was shining through the dark clouds. The only light nearby flickered on and off under the eaves of a building. The guards sat in the cover of a wall, every now and then looking at the road leading to the gulf. The game was quiet, the night was quiet, we were quiet.
We heard metal scraping along the ground, everyone frozen where they stood or sat. A hundred yards away we saw a man open a section of the fence outside the warehouse where Red Stripe beer was stored.
We looked quietly from the dark shadows and down the gulf road – men walking with purpose in single file, slowly…
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Where is your love Jamaica?
On Monday November 14, 2016, the Observer published an article entitled ‘Law scorned – No record of annual reports from 23 State agencies”.
In a nutshell, what the Jamaican public was told was that only 21% of public bodies have been compliant in tabling their annual financial reports.
56 were one to two years behind; 36 were three to five years behind; 14 were six to eight years behind; 5 were over nine years late; and there were no records of 23 of the entities EVER submitting an audited report. The period in question has both of our political parties forming the Government of Jamaica.
Those in breach of THE PUBLIC BODIES MANAGEMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT represent 79% of the total.
Note that according to Part 2 of the Act [Corporate Governance and Accountability], it is the Minister who is responsible and accountable for, among other things, the following:
2. (1) Before the end of each financial year, the Minister shall cause to be prepared in such form as may be approved by him, estimates of revenue and expenditure for public bodies, with respect to the ensuing financial year, containing-
(a) summary of the corporate plan submitted by each public body, pursuant to section 7;
(b) information necessary for the compilation of the Fiscal Policy Paper, as it relates to that public body; and
(c) other data and information pertaining to those public bodies, as the Minister considers appropriate
2. (2) The Minister shall cause the estimates referred to in subsection (1) to be laid before the House of Representatives and the Senate for approval.
3. (1) The accounts of public bodies shall be prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles promulgated from time to time by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica, or such other body as the Minister may specify by order.
3. (2) As soon as possible after the end of each financial year, but not more than four months thereafter, the board of a public body shall submit the annual report including audited financial statements of the public body to the responsible Minister, who shall cause the report and statements to be laid on the Table of the House of Representatives and of the Senate.
The article further states “where breaches are found, reports could be sent to the Attorney General’s Department for appropriate action to be taken”.
Are these public bodies [the 79% in breach of the Laws of Jamaica] funded by the taxpayers of Jamaica? If so, then each and every taxpayer, whether business or individual, needs to hold the responsible Ministers to account. Note that the Board of each public body is also responsible and accountable for submitting the annual report [inclusive AUDITED financial statements] to the Minister. The Boards have failed the Jamaican people.
Imagine this happening in a private entity – people would lose their jobs. No questions asked.
From the Observer article, I notice the PAAC includes both Government and Opposition members. What are our lawmakers going to do about this? When has appropriate action ever been taken? This has been going on for years, and some of those on the PAAC have been around for years.
Please remember we are number 69 in the Corruption Perception Index 2015, and with a score of 41% actually sit on the CORRUPT side of the graph. If action is not taken, then we will never move forward, prosperity will remain talk, as those who espouse transparency, ethics, honesty etc. are not willing to walk the talk. This leaves a perception that the law is only for certain people.
What would happen if private companies and self-employed individuals decided to follow the example set by our leaders? Suppose every major corporation in Jamaica decided NOT to file their annual financial reports? Would not swift action be taken by the Government?
I say that public bodies have already set a precedent, one that any private entity/individual should be able to use in a court of law.
Because if the lawmakers of Jamaica are not to be held accountable for breaking the law, then why should anyone else be?
I know many are upset at the US election results.
The fact remains that governments that neglect large swathes of their population do so at their own peril. No matter the world calling people ‘deplorables’ or other derogatory words.
Jamaica itself has its own terminology for what some would call our ‘deplorables’, so let us not skirt around some of our own harsh and unpleasant realities.
And this is a lesson, not only for the US, but many other nations, where huge sections of the people are left in limbo, forgotten and scorned by the mainstream. These are those whom globalisation has marginalised, through no fault of their own.
Thomas Jefferson [the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of America, was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights, which motivated American colonists to break from Great Britain and form a new nation], said “Every generation needs a new revolution”…maybe, just maybe, with the right advisors, this is a new revolution for the US…a clarion call not to neglect those who most need assistance.
Whatever we may be feeling at this moment, time itself will show what this change means, both for the US and the world at large.
In the interim, we live with the hand we are dealt with.
“The higher we are placed, the more humbly we should walk”. Marcus Tullius Cicero
Bullets…barrels…ballistics…the X6 Murder Trial
The recent case dubbed the X6 Murder Trial, and the outcome, has led to far too much doubt in the eyes of the Jamaican public.
Numerous letters and articles have been written, and in going through all the social media comments, it is evident there is no one in Jamaica who believes that justice was served.
In the view of the public, the alleged killer is still guilty [or if not him, his son], the taxi man is a liar and was bought out, the investigation carried out by the Police was mediocre, if not an outright joke, and the evidence submitted by the DPP via the prosecution attorney was substandard [Judge Judy would have ensured a far better job was done!]. The law in this case is perceived as being an ass.
Our people believe, and they have a right, that the case was paid off, that there is definitely one law for those with influence and money and another for those without, and that the ways of the old plantocracy are still alive and well – whatever your colour, once you have the cash and the status you are the king.
So, this blog is all about bullets, barrels and ballistics, and how easy it is to subvert the course of true justice.
As every firearm is made up of several parts, how easy would it be to change those parts that provide a unique identification for each specific firearm?
Every gun barrel is rifled during manufacture, or finished inside the barrel with rotating grooves to impart spin to a bullet in order to improve accuracy during flight. The resulting spiralling grooves and lands (the flat parts between the grooves) leave mirrored markings on the bullet itself.
Rifling is therefore unique to each firearm.
Apart from rifling, machining marks left on the casing can be used to determine the firearm, as well as the firing pin and casing ejection marks.
While the bullet striation would be different, the fact that you have a new barrel should however be obvious, and forensics can still match from the shell casing, as the firing pin and chamber leave their own markings.
Unlike the human hand, there are many ways to change the ballistic fingerprints that a particular gun leaves. “Ballistic imprints, unlike fingerprints and DNA, can be altered, either deliberately or simply through normal use,” says a document made available by the Fraternal Order of Police.
The ballistic signature can be changed with numerous firings of the gun. While these changes are most pronounced when the gun is new, it is not difficult to intentionally change the signature later on.
Barrels and firing pins can be replaced (or filed), creating a brand-new signature that does not exist in anybody’s data base. Technically speaking, it would be cheaper to just get a wire brush and totally destroy the inside of the barrel.
Compounding the problem is the fact that the existing technology which helps trace bullets or their casings back to the guns that fired them is fatally flawed. According to a study commissioned by the California Department of Justice, current computer matching systems “do not provide conclusive results”. After firing almost 800 test guns in the study, the computers incorrectly matched the casings to the guns that fired them as much as 62% of the time.
In the US, a quick flight from Jamaica, you can buy a barrel at a gun show where registration is not required. Same applies for a firing pin. And any firearm carrier is capable of changing both.
Given the five-year time frame for this case to come to court, and the fact that the firearm has still not been surrendered, what if any evidence will a forensic examination of the firearm, if it still exists, show?
I contend that any evidence still available will be as inconclusive as the changed, and unchallenged, statement of the taxi man.