Sat | Jun 6, 2020

Curfew warning: Unruly citizens will be charged - JCF notes high compliance rate, wants J’cans to pay more attention to other COVID guidelines

Published:Saturday | April 4, 2020 | 12:10 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
A woman cleans the streets of downtown Kingston at 8:18 on April 1, the first night of the curfew. The 10-hour measure will continue for seven days, ending on April 8.
A woman cleans the streets of downtown Kingston at 8:18 on April 1, the first night of the curfew. The 10-hour measure will continue for seven days, ending on April 8.

It would appear that the majority of Jamaicans are complying with the weeklong nightly curfews implemented on April 1 to help stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus in the island.

On a tour of several communities in St Catherine as well as Kingston and St Andrew on Thursday night, The Gleaner saw several deserted streets which would normally be teeming with persons socialising into the wee hours of the morning. The handful of persons seen outdoors dashed into their yards upon glimpsing police teams or the media.

The seven-day islandwide curfew makes it mandatory for persons to stay inside their homes between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. As The Gleaner gauged the level of compliance on Thursday, a number of cops said Jamaicans, for the most part, have been complying with the order.

Speaking on the police’s ‘JCF Now’ programme aired on Radio Jamaica 94 FM on Thursday night, Senior Superintendent Steve McGregor, who is in charge of operations for the Area Four police, said that the police were aware that a number of persons are sometimes unavoidably out after the curfew kicks in. He said that once these persons can prove they are on their way home, the officers usually encourage them to do so quickly.

He added, however, that if citizens build resistance when questioned by cops, they could be almost sure of prosecution.

“The rate of compliance is really good,” he said. “It has been upwards of 95 per cent, even in west Kingston where there is a particular culture. They are used to being on the streets until late hours, including the children. The adults play bingo or don’t go in for various reasons.”

He added that the police have also been playing their part in sensitising residents of several communities on correct social distancing and sanitisation practices.

“One of the things I am alarmed about is that people are ignorant of the importance of abiding by the guidelines and are doing as they please and are not observing proper sanitisation and washing of hands,” the senior cop said. “We have been doing a lot of social work, even outside of the curfew period. I am optimistic we will get there because we are up to the task.”

As our news team travelled across the Corporate Area, soldiers and cops were on heavy patrol throughout communities such as Arnett Gardens, Craig Town and Jones Town.

Sleeping shifts

When The Gleaner visited the Olympic Gardens Police Station in St Andrew about 9:30 p.m., a sergeant said that, like McGregor, he had also observed that some citizens were not keen on following the COVID-19 sensitisation messages.

“Some people want to play football, so we would have to sensitise them. While Government plays its part, we are playing ours also,” he said. “Sometimes we might see someone on the road after hours, but it’s not like they want to be out there late. Sometimes family members are so many, they sleep in a shift system. You will see them at nights, but not in the daytime.”

He, however, marvelled at the calm the community can now enjoy under the curfew.

“Usually a lot of people will be in the station at this time. We kinda get a little peace and quiet because complaints are usually many, and [it’s] normally petty stuff like landlord arguing with tenant or somebody throw water on somebody else,” he said. “Without the curfew, loud dance would be happening right now!”