Thu | Apr 18, 2019

Squatters plague Acadia - Barbican residents want informal settlement gone as police raise several concerns

Published:Friday | February 22, 2019 | 12:18 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
A section of the squatter settlement along the gully banks on Elliot Avenue in Acadia, off Barbican Road in St Andrew.
A section of a gully filled with garbage.
A section of a squatter settlement along the gully banks on Elliot Avenue in Acadia, off Barbican Road in St Andrew.
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There are growing concerns about a squatter settlement on the banks of a gully behind dwellings on Acadia Drive in St Andrew, which is proving a nuisance for residents and present a multiplicity of health and safety issues.

In substantiating the residents’ complaints, Inspector Tyrone Archer of the Grants Pen Police Station said the squatters are notorious for preying on nearby housing schemes.

“We have reasonable cause to believe that these persons are involved in clandestine activities. We have successfully arrested and convicted persons who hail from that space. It hurts that they trample on the hard-working of people in Acadia,” he said. “They pick ackees and everything else and they bring violence to the people who own the trees.”

He went on to knock two state agencies for being complicit, helping to smooth the way for the illegal settlement by giving the squatters access to utility services.

“It is pathetic, to say the least, that entities like the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) and the National Water Commission have facilitated an environment not conducive to habitation,” he told The Gleaner on Wednesday.

“The population seems to be growing! Years ago, we had roughly 50 persons. Now, we have more than 300 persons living around there,” he added.

The informal settlement is also presenting an environmental challenge because of poor garbage disposal practices. On Wednesday, The Gleaner saw sections of the gully filled with debris, which has sparked health and safety concerns.

“There is no proper disposal of waste,” Archer pointed out. “That is my greatest concern because you have kids growing up around there. There is also prospect for diseases and we have spoken to various social agencies.”

Even after lobbying the various state agencies, Archer explained that no remedy has been found.

“What I have been doing from day one is lobby the health department to go in there [and declare it unhealthy], and then after that, the place should be bulldozed. JPS gave some of them light because it reduces the prospects of them stealing electricity. Most people around there bridge (steal) light. You have a few, though, who go out and work,” he said.

POLICING CHALLENGE

 

Archer told The Gleaner that the settlement is also hard to patrol, as police and other emergency vehicles find it difficult to enter the area.

 

“We cannot police the area because it is just a one entrance and exit. A fire took place last week and no emergency unit could access the area. We had to do it ourselves.”

 

Delroy Chuck, member of parliament for North East St Andrew, in which the settlement is located, acknowledged the problem, but said there were no immediate plans do address the situation.

 

“We are looking at a general overall plan for squatter areas in the constituency of North East [St Andrew], to upgrade all of the communities, and that is a long-term plan. No immediate plan is there. I know that the people whose land they are occupying tried to legally move them, but it wasn’t possible.”

 

On Wednesday, one man related to The Gleaner how the area expanded over the last 30-odd years. He said there were only a few dwellings in that particular area before the gully was constructed, and marvelled at the rate at which the population has been growing.

 

“Those people captured the area. Up deh come in like a wasp nest, with the houses chuck up, chuck up,” he said. “I live here from the ‘60s, when it was just a track. But because of the housing scheme, dem mek di gully. A four a we did live yah suh, enuh, but di population gone up.”

 

He also admitted to hearing of the security concerns in the area.

 

“Dem bruk all di people dem house,” he said. “Dem all steal di people dem dog.”

 

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com