POLICE in two south-central parishes are grappling with a series of robberies targeting bars, with the latest incidents resulting in the alleged rape of two women and the murder of a man over the weekend.
In the latest incident in Manchester on Sunday morning armed men held up a bar in Kingsland, a few miles north-west of Mandeville.
A senior police source said about 2:00 am men entered the bar and held up two women, including a bartender, at gunpoint. The gunmen robbed the bartender of cash and took $65,000 from the other woman. Three poker boxes were also stolen. The gunmen then reportedly held the women against their will and raped them. The men then made their escape.
The police source said the theft of poker boxes is fuelling crime.
“The men are targeting bars not just to rob money, but the poker boxes are of most value to them; one of those poker boxes value up to $750,000. In this incident they stole three of the boxes — and to make matters worse, raped the bartender and another woman,” the source said.
“We are warning bar owners and operators to comply with the Spirit Licence Act which outlines the opening and closing hours of the establishments. It’s 7:00 am for opening, and for closing, midnight on weekends and 11:00 pm on weekdays,” added the sources.
In the neighbouring parish of St Elizabeth, which in recent weeks has been plagued by criminals targeting bars, police have stepped up their response.
A senior police source there said about 3:45 am on Sunday cops received information that a farm store and bar was being broken into in Braes River.
“The quick actions of the police would have responded to an attempted break-in of an establishment in Braes River. Upon arrival a car was seen leaving the scene so the information is that the vehicle was chased and there was an exchange of gunfire,” the source said.
A release from the police’s communications unit said two men were arrested during the incident after a bar operator was reportedly shot at.
“He enquired but was met with gunshots from hoodlums travelling in a Toyota Voxy motor vehicle. The men managed to flee the scene. The police were alerted and shortly after intercepted a Toyota Corolla motor car operating as a ‘pilot’ motor vehicle in close proximity to where the shooting occurred. The driver was taken into custody,” the release said in part.
“Shortly after, a team of officers intercepted the Toyota Voxy motor vehicle in Elim district in the parish. On the approach of the law enforcement officers the gunmen opened gunfire. The police returned fire, however two men managed to escape. The third assailant was subsequently apprehended. Both men were arrested, and the two vehicles seized pending further investigations,” the police added.
This latest incident follows Saturday’s shooting death of construction worker Lloyd Cole, 52, during a bar robbery in Top Hill, close to Junction in St Elizabeth.
A police report said about 1:45 am Cole was among patrons at the bar when two robbers proceeded to rob people. The robbers reportedly forced open a poker gaming machine and stole an undetermined sum of cash. Cole was shot and taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Recently, head of the St Elizabeth police Superintendent Coleridge Minto sought to reassure bar operators, and urged citizens to continue sharing information that may lead to the apprehension of suspects who in recent weeks have targeted bars in the south-central parish.
Minto told justices of the peace at a function recently that there was a spate of armed robberies.
“In this quiet parish of St Elizabeth we have men driving around with high-powered rifles. We had three robberies [recently in one week] — three men with rifles and another with a handgun robbing business establishments at night,” he said.
“We want our citizens to get involved and to share any information that you have that can help us,” he appealed.