MONTEGO BAY, St James — Blaming widescale street vending outside Charles Gordon Market here for the congestion that has higglers and shoppers flouting social distancing rules, Mayor of Montego Bay Councillor Homer Davis says he will be asking the police to seize all handcarts — the chief facilitator of the illegal activity.
“One of the things that is creating the problem why the vendors are so much on the streets is… the availability of handcarts, and that is something we will have to take a look at. We can’t have these handcarts being rented wholesale to everyone, because they load the handcart in the market and they look for the opportunity to sell on the streets and create the problem. So I am going to have discussion with the police to seize all these handcarts, because we cannot have the vendors out there plying their produce,” Davis, who is also chairman of the St James Municipal Corporation, said during a tour of the market yesterday.
“When they (vendors) are on the street, they create congestion. They behave in a very disorderly way and, as result of that, it creates more problems for the security forces. So I am making this appeal to the vendors again: The market can accommodate you, you don’t have to be on the street,” he said.
Davis stressed the need for a stronger, more sustained, police presence in the market district to ensure the vendors’ compliance.
“We can control what happens in the market, but when they (police) only come when there is an issue, that can’t help us. We would like to have the team [on] Thursday, Friday and Saturday — at least eight to 10 police [officers] working along with the our municipal police. If we have that we can get the vendors inside of the market,” Davis argued.
He revealed plans to sit with the police yesterday afternoon to craft a strategy that can be implemented in time for Saturday.
“I know Saturday is usually a very problematic day… We would like to have the police here from 5:00 am so no one is allowed to start putting their produce along the streets outside of the market. And if we can enforce that and get [them] into the market, the thing will be seamless,” the mayor said.
Davis argued that the majority of the more than 700 registered vendors are willing to cooperate, but are influenced by the recalcitrant few.
“The vast majority of vendors would love to cooperate and they are cooperating, but there are a few people who decide that they must break all the rules, and what they do when they break the rules, the persons who are in the market who think they are not getting enough sales will now decide to go on the street. So that is the problem,” Davis pointed out.
The Montego Bay mayor made a fervent plea to the market stakeholders to adhere to social distancing guidelines to guard against the spread of COVID-19.
“At this time when social distancing has to be a daily occurrence, I am appealing to both the vendors and the buyers to adhere to the social distance and also to come into the market,” he implored.
“They (customers) must refuse [to buy] on the street and come inside the market where it is more secure. We have adequate parking within the district if those people are not on the street,” Davis added.
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