(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — The Montego Bay Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) is warning the public to refrain from leaving valuables in their vehicles, particularly those parked in the busy Fairview Shopping Centre area, where a number of vehicles have reportedly been broken into and cash and personal items stolen.
“Persons leave as much as $800,000 in their vehicles. We are appealing to members of the public to desist from such practice, don’t leave cash or anything of value in your vehicle at all, the culprits are very experienced in these areas, as it takes seconds for them to remove whatever valuables you leave in your vehicles,” Detective Sergeant Eulette Lewis Green pleaded.
She said it has come to the attention of the police that persons are stashing large sums of cash under the seats and mats of vehicles they park in the business centre, oblivious that they are being monitored by robbers.
“It has been observed that citizens are going to the banks and other business places in the area and leaving large sum of cash under the seats and mats of their vehicles while conducting other businesses in the area, when they return to the vehicle culprits would have gained entry either by breaking out the glass or gaining access to the vehicle by other means and steal the cash,” she said.
She told the Jamaica Observer West that recently thieves reportedly broke into three vehicles in the Fairview Shopping Centre area and stole cash totalling $1.3 million.
She urged persons conducting business in the area to minimise the use of cash.
“It is advised that you use cheques instead of cash where possible, and I want also to advise those who withdraw large sums for payroll to encourage their employees to open an account so the cash can be deposited in there. Whilst plain clothes officers are on duty in these areas, sometimes citizens need to play their roles in protecting their own properties.
Even if you have an empty bag/pouch it is an invitation for the thieves to break in, so don’t leave it in plain sight. There are times when important documents are in these pouches and they are very hard to replace,” explained Lewis Green, who is also the St James liaison officer for the constabulary’s Corporate Communications Unit.
She stressed that the modus operandi of the thieves is for them to travel in groups one of which trails unsuspecting individuals into financial institutions and alert their cronies who remain outside.
“Be aware of your surroundings at all times as these culprits don’t work alone, at times one will remain outside whilst the accomplice will come inside the building /bank with you to keep in touch with his cronies outside,” she explained.
A businessman who operates in the area, who spoke to the Observer West on condition that his identity was not revealed, confirmed that there have been several reports of cars been broken into in the area.
“I was told that they are breaking into cars and stealing from the vehicles. They have even stolen a vehicle from over there recently. [But], it is not the first time, it is something that is happening,” he disclosed.
Lewis Green in the meantime is calling on members of the business community to invest in more closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) in the area.
“We want to also encourage the business community to install more CCTVs as it serves a deterrent in some cases and will also capture the image of the culprits and others,” she argued.
She added: “Make sure your vehicles are securely locked before leaving the parking lot and activate your alarm system if you have one. If there is a parking lot available in front of the building you are going, use it so you can look out on the vehicle whilst you are inside the building.”
Winston Lawson, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the meantime has renewed his calls for the business community to “make their cameras available to the Jamaica Eye”.