Group prez: Yard has no criminal elements!

Wilton’s Yard has been the hot topic when it comes to crime in the city.  Hardly can you hear of an incident without some reference being drawn to the community.  Wednesday’s impromptu raid on the area has left a bitter taste in the mouths of residents.  Frustration, disbelief, anger and hostility by residents who were unceremoniously locked out of their community permeated the air during the hours the police conducted their search.
On Wednesday evening’s Newsmaker Live, Timothy Poleon’s guest was the President of the Wilton’s Yard Association Peter Reynolds.  He began by explaining to the host how the organization came to be.
“The organization was formed out of the need to curtail the gang rivalry at the time.  That was during Carnival 2007.  We were successful.  There was some semblance of peace for a while,” said Reynolds.
Responding to Poleon’s suggestion gang rivalry still exists between Wilton’s Yard and other communities Reynolds said, “The gang rivalry I must say, it’s still there.  We have gangs everywhere, from Gros Islet to Vieux Fort.  I don’t think that in itself can be helped.  We have tried our very best to reach out to various communities.  Some have taken it in good stride and have come on board with us.  Others have haven’t.”
Reynolds believes the public should focus on the fact that Wilton’s Yard has a functioning association and is trying to make a change instead of always harping on the negative.
Reynolds told Poleon: “I can tell you, over the last four years, myself and other members of the association, we went all out.  Sometimes the police will come with someone in the vehicle whose chain had just been snatched, whose phone had just been snatched and we would inquire.  If the perpetrator was found, we would recover whatever items and return it to the police.”
According to Reynolds, the late Arthur Clarke was one of the major mentors in the community, encouraging the young ones to stay on the right path.
Speaking of the most recent raid, “I am sure the presence of the police at Wilton’s Yard today [Wednesday] and the searches that they made, they have to be cognizant that some of the houses they went into, there are law abiding citizens there who go to work every day.  It’s not much when the police act.  It is how they act because I can tell you, over the last couple of years when the police come into Wilton’s Yard, no one troubles them.”
Reynolds lamented, “The manner in which things are done and the public relations between the police and the public is very poor.  Over the years Wilton’s Yard has been stigmatized and it’s like people have just given up on it.  It’s almost like the people who live there are not human beings.”
In his opinion, the stigmatization comes from the reputation of the “yard.”  Reynolds mused, “Every young person out there who dies touches me.  I know the police are frustrated but part of the blamed also lies with the police as well.  The police need to shoulder some of the blame.  The majority of the blame lies on the parents.  You arrest a guy today.  You make a case.  You take him to court and he’s out tomorrow laughing at you or he’s out two days later regardless of what offense.  As long as you have the money, a good lawyer, it has to be frustrating.  On the other hand you have police officers who don’t pursue their cases.”
One of the major areas Reynolds feels needs to be addressed is the corruption in the police force.  He affirmed most of the time the police go on raids, the community is well informed beforehand by cops.
Reynolds and Poleon delved into the issue of Ashley Bernard’s killing.  Reynolds stated his point of view of the incident based on what was said to him by persons in the community.  Poleon pointed out the Wilton’s Yard story differs significantly from that of the police. Reynolds answered: “What makes what the police say not be hearsay?  Is it because they are police officers? Most people tend to believe what they see on the television.  It sways public opinion.  It is one of the most damning things to the people of Wilton’s Yard over the years.  The media, what they say and what they hear.  And not actually the media but the reports they have to balance it.  Yes, the police come and give a report but who is to say what the police are saying is true?”
Warned Reynolds, “The police should really look at their action because sooner or later somebody or some people will become embolden enough to say yeah, let’s go after the police.”
The Wilton’s Yard president took issue with the weapons the police brandished on Wednesday because he believes it’s unnecessary. Poleon asked Reynolds to send a message to the criminal elements in the Wilton’s Yard.
Said Reynolds, “The message I’m going to send is not for the criminal elements in my community.  It’s for the criminal elements who come into my community to hang out because as far as I am concerned, in my community itself, there are no criminal elements who live in my community.  My message to them is give us a chance.  Leave us alone.  We have an after school program.  We have a homework program.  You don’t want to listen to what we have to say.  You are already above the age of eighteen.  You don’t want to hear.  Let us work with the younger ones.  Give the younger ones a chance.”
According to Reynolds, criminal elements from as far as Vieux Fort to Gros Islet come to hang out in Wilton’s Yard.  He further believes the networking of paths leading through the community makes it all the more attractive for illicit activities.
Asked Poleon: “Why would they set up camp there?”
Answered Reynolds, “It’s right in the middle of town.  There’s a street running through it.  You can get something to eat there.  We have our own version of a supermarket.  We have a little sound on a Friday night.  It’s a place where you’re in town, it’s the closest place you can just walk in, have a seat, have a cold drink, have a little conversation and that’s it.”

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