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Locals react to bottle-throwing incident

  • Tributes to Jahkoby Smith, who was fatally stabbed at the West End Sail Boat Club on July 29, have been sprayed on the road and written on sheets opposite the Rubis gas station on Boaz Island (Photograph by Lisa Simpson)

Residents have called for more positive activities for young people in Boaz Island Village.

Locals spoke out after a group of people threw bottles at passing traffic near the Rubis gas station in an incident on Saturday.

While area residents said antisocial behaviour had not been a persistent problem, they told The Royal Gazette more guidance is needed to keep the younger generations out of trouble.

“There are too many young children running around that are negative because there is nothing positive to do,” one area resident, who asked not to be named, said.

“As long as there is nothing positive to do, they are always going to think negative. Give them something positive to do.”

The resident, who lives close to where the bottle-throwing incident happened, suggested putting on more activities at the Sandys Community Centre, and also called for better lighting in the area along with an increased police presence to deter antisocial behaviour.

But she stressed the incident near the gas station was “unusual”.

She added: “This is the first time it happened out here — usually we hear about it around Woodys.”

The woman explained that some of the younger residents put on a barbecue in tribute to Jahkoby Smith, who died after being stabbed at the West End Sail Boat Club on July 29.

Police attended the scene after bottles were thrown at passing traffic, including police cars.

According to police, nobody was hurt and spokesman Dwayne Caines said it “appeared to be a negative, emotional response” to the death of Mr Smith.

But the resident also pointed out that the writing that had been sprayed on the road and nearby buildings was “unnecessary” and that “sheets are enough”.

She also called for the street lighting, which was damaged in the recent hurricanes, to be fixed and said: “I feel that they come out here because there is no lighting.”

Another area resident, who lives further away from the main road, added that her part of the neighbourhood was also usually quiet. However, she said antisocial behaviour was a problem island-wide but that pointing fingers would not fix the problem.

“We know that the problems with antisocial behaviour go a lot deeper,” she said, and highlighted underlying problems like education and jobs.

“As a community we all have to find a solution,” she said, adding that there also needs to be more communication with the younger generations to find out what they need.

Another resident said: “It’s always the race card being pulled and that doesn’t solve anything. It takes a village to raise a child. I think the youth of today just need guidance.”

In addition to more positive activities, she said they also need to be reminded that they can make something of their lives and that “it’s not about gang life”.

Simon Groves, chairman of the village’s condominium association, agreed that antisocial behaviour had not been a problem on a day-to-day basis.

“Obviously what has happened in the last week or so was prompted by other unforeseeable incidents but I think that if you were to look statistically at what happens in Boaz Island, there is not greater risk in any way there than there has been in any other comparable neighbourhood.”

He also acknowledged residents’ concerns about the street lighting, which falls under the association’s remit along with all other infrastructure support and maintenance work for the condominium buildings.

He said meetings had started with a contractor to repair lighting, with the areas most in need addressed first.

But he also explained that the association is still underfunded and is owed around $180,000, because 50 per cent or more of the private property owners had not paid their monthly maintenance fees.

Mr Groves said that the crumbling water infrastructure was also draining funds, which meant the association had to prioritise the funds it had left after legally mandated fees had been paid.

“If we had the money, which owners are legally demanded to pay, then infrastructure support such as lighting and all the other things would be in place straight away,” he added.

Michael Scott, the PLP MP for the area, said kneejerk deployment of police had to be avoided.

“Police deployments must, going forward be connected with known risk and concerns and be intelligence driven,” he added.

He backed the views of Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, who on Tuesday announced a multi-pronged and multidimensional approach “to compassionately and structurally address antisocial conditions in our island”.

Mr Scott also endorsed more activities for children and adolescents in the area and said he would work to deliver on this.

He added that he had also been made aware of security concerns about street lighting.

“It is a legitimate concern which I have listed for the attention of the minister with responsibility for Wedco with a footnote that the resolve to light and fix areas and infrastructure for AC must be equally applied by Wedco in the name of resident security and safety.

“I am sure my government will share these security concerns and assist where required.”

However, Wedco general manager Andrew Dias reiterated that all work for the village falls under the responsibility of the board.

Police spokesman Dwayne Caines added that police inquiries into Saturday’s incident continued.

He said police would continue to work with area residents and anyone with direct concerns should call Western Community Action Team Sergeant Andrew Exell on 717-0993 or e-mail him at aexell@bps.bm.