Public Order and Safety In Morant Bay

The once congested streets of Morant Bay, St. Thomas, are today a picture of free-flowing traffic and clear sidewalks, following several measures undertaken by the parish’s Municipal Corporation.

Among the initiatives are the repainting of the yellow no-parking zone lines, increased provision of parking areas, the clamping of illegally parked vehicles, the strict enforcement of one-way streets and addressing illegal vending.

Chief Engineering Officer at the Corporation, Odel Felix, who oversees roads and works in the parish, tells JIS News that while most of the rules are not new, there is heightened enforcement to ensure public order and safety.

“It’s basically in every town that you don’t park along a yellow line. Numerous times we have got complains from even the fire department that whenever there’s an [emergency] in the town, they cannot get access because of traffic and congestion,” he points out.

He says that the Municipal Corporation has provided paid parking for motorists at the old Courthouse by Paul Bogle Square. Parking is also available at the lot next to the Anglican Church Hall, North Street above Courts, and another on Georges Street, behind JN Bank.

“The town of Morant Bay is very small and, therefore, a person can park and go and do their business,” Mr. Felix points out.

He adds that the enforcement of no-parking zones is also helping to deal with certain “sore points” within the town that are normally heavily congested.

Taxi operators heading east are also required to park in the designated area on South Street (down from the Morant Bay Fire Station). There are also signs to indicate that the street is one-way, with motorists only allowed to take a right after passing the fire station on Debtors Lane.

In addition, municipal police officers have been patrolling the streets daily to ensure that order is being maintained.

Mr. Felix says that residents will need to adjust to the measures, noting that a culture of order is being created.

“If you go to any other parish and park illegally, your vehicle will get towed away. Once you park illegally, you will be clamped. Most people are now becoming aware of the clamping so sometimes, when a person goes to an area and they want to park, somebody will inform them not to park there because they will be clamped,” he points out.

Once a vehicle is clamped, the motorist is required to pay $2,500 at the Municipal Corporation, which is located on Church Street, to have it removed.

Mr. Felix tells JIS News that in the early months of the clamping penalty, between 20 and 30 vehicles were being clamped per day, but this is now down to fewer than five vehicles per day.

For him, this means that the penalty has been helping to deter illegal parking in the parish capital.

“The aim is not collection; the aim is to ensure that the streets are cleared just in case of an emergency, so that the emergency vehicles can carry out their operation without any obstruction,” Mr. Felix says.

In terms of the reception from the public on the new measures, Mr. Felix says that there is generally positive feedback as persons welcome the free flow of movement within the town.

“The feedback that we receive from the public is that they are happy with it, especially pedestrians and people going about their lawful business; even the vendors that we removed from the sidewalk. Most people are in agreement with that,” he says.

Several residents who use the town on a regular basis tell JIS News that they welcome the measures.

Prospect resident, Deidre Hinds, who was doing business on Georges Street says she is a firm believer in order.

“So, if there is a place for the vehicles to be parked, I do believe that that is the place that they should go,” she explains.

Miss Hinds also welcomes the measures taken to address chaotic vending in the town.

“Now I don’t have to worry that I will step on anybody’s goods, so I feel glad to walk in peace on the roads,” she notes.

An area of concern for Miss Hinds is the designated taxi stand for operators transporting persons to Lyssons, Prospect and Port Morant, noting that the location is “a bit too far” and there is need for adequate shelter.

Attendant at the Municipal Corporation’s Paul Bogle Square parking lot, Randy Edwards, tells JIS News that private motorists have been using the parking lot willingly.

The lot is located at the old Morant Bay Courthouse. Drivers are charged $300 daily or $100 for the first hour. There is a $50 charge for each additional hour, where the driver is being billed hourly.

Elsewhere, at the Anglican Church Hall parking lot, Faithlyn Thompson, who has been parking attendant for three years, says that more persons are using the lot now.

“I believe the roads are freer and you can walk… even around by the market,” Mrs. Thompson says, noting that addressing illegal vending has reduced chaos in the town.

Grade-10 student at Morant Bay High School, Devonte Wallace, agrees, noting that “sometimes they (vendors) are on the street and they have the goods all over the sidewalk”.

Mrs. Thompson and Mr. Wallace, while noting that challenges remain, say there is now a more orderly and safer township for the people of the parish to enjoy.

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