- Seeing the congestion first-hand, police officers from the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) newly formed Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch (PSTEB) quickly sprang into action, to clear the snarl.
- The 700 PSTEB members have been specially trained to engage community members as they carry out their duties to deal with traffic, vending and the general population in public spaces. They underwent training in human rights and situational awareness, among other areas.
- The unit’s objectives are the overall improvement of public safety through strategic deployment of police assets and personnel; and a reduction in response time to demands for police service, especially in road accidents and domestic disputes.
It was around 9 o’clock on a Tuesday morning and traffic was gridlocked at the intersection of West King’s House Road and Constant Spring Road.
Seeing the congestion first-hand, police officers from the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) newly formed Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch (PSTEB) quickly sprang into action, to clear the snarl.
“I hate seeing traffic jams”, declares Inspector of Police attached to PSTEB’s Traffic Enforcement section, Ronald McLeod, as he waves motorists through the stoplight at the intersection, which was now on red.
The cause for the traffic congestion was ongoing road works in the area. In this instance, an attempt was made to use an excavator at the corner of West Kings House Road, which greatly hindered the peak hour traffic flow from Dunrobin Avenue onto Constant Spring Road; and from West King’s House Road onto Constant Spring Road.
“They were trying to work while the peak traffic is moving; that could not have happened. So I came over and stopped them,” Inspector McLeod explains after pausing briefly to speak with JIS News.
This is just one of the many scenarios that PSTEB officers have been working to address since the new branch commenced operations just over a month ago. More than 60 personnel from the traffic enforcement section, are dispatched daily to deal with such matters.
Explaining how directing traffic works under these circumstances, Inspector McLeod, who is one of the persons in charge of the PSTEB officers on the ground, says they first have to identify where the majority of the traffic is coming from and, in some cases, give it a “double pull”, to enable a free flow.
“A double pull means that even though the light changes to red, we will still allow [motorists] to go through to get off that segment of the traffic that is heaviest,” he explains.
“We are the traffic enforcement section, and our role is to ensure we have a steady flow of traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular. That is why we are here every morning to ensure that, especially during the peak hours, we get traffic moving,” he emphasizes.
Inspector McLeod says the motoring public has been “welcoming” of the PSTEB officers’ increased presence. Brightly attired in their neon-coloured vests, and helmets, the lawmen officers can be seen at major signalized intersections throughout the Corporate Area and St. Catherine.
“Every day that we are on the road, people toot their horns at us. They wave at us in appreciation of what we are doing. They realize that this is a new initiative and that we are working well and its working for them. People are getting home on time; people are getting to work on time… and they appreciate it a lot”, he says, adding that commuters also express their gratitude via twitter and other social media platforms.
The PSTEB officers have also been deployed to areas where major road rehabilitation works are being undertaken to facilitate better traffic management.
These include: Constant Spring Road, Mandela Highway, Portia Simpson Miller Square and Hagley Park Road. This has resulted in several traffic changes which the officers have been handling.
“PSTEB officers are the persons who you are going to see upfront, because even for the traffic changes, we are very instrumental in those. We are in touch with the various agencies in whatever changes that are going to be made to the roadways, and then we go out and we carry out the functions,” Inspector McLeod says.
He points out that the officers of this specialised branch are diligently at work from as early as five o’clock in the morning daily to ensure there is free traffic flow.
In fact, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Calvin Allen, who heads the branch, has also been seen directing traffic on roadways such as East Avenue, which has been converted to a one-way thoroughfare.
Inspector McLeod says while there were some initial hiccups during the back-to-school period in September, the PSTEB officers, who at that time were out on the roads from as early as 4:00 a.m., have not been encountering many challenges recently, as motorists “are understanding what we are about and we are getting a lot of conformity”.
In terms of the operators of public passenger vehicles, some of who display extreme indiscipline on the roads, he says the presence of the PSTEB officers has been keeping them in line.
“How the unruly (motorists) work, is that once the police is present, then they deter from their (disruptive) actions; and what we have at Traffic Enforcement, is a lot of presence on the roads. Apart from presence, we do take action when we see them out of line… as a result, they don’t take chances. So we have things under control at the moment,” he confidently states.
The Inspector notes that whatever the situation requires, once persons are out of line, “if they are to get a ticket… they will get a ticket… if they are to be arrested… they will be arrested”, according to the nature of the offence.
“So people will understand that we are serious and we are here about change; and if we are about change, then we are going to stand by it,” he asserts.
Inspector McLeod says, ultimately, conformity from the public is one of the main objectives of PSTEB, noting that the branch’s establishment was necessary, given the “rampant disregard for the usage of the road”.
As such, he says that, “so our mandate is really to cover as many intersections and corridors as possible, to ensure that the offenders will desist from doing the things they used to do. We intend to continue this and to make sure that persons understand and once they get used to it, I expect (more) compliance,” he states.
Inspector McLeod stresses that the officers “are not here for just face value. We are here to ensure and to protect and to serve. While we are on the road, these things (unruly behaviour) just cannot happen. We won’t allow it”.
“We have presence. Every corner you turn in the Half-Way-Tree area, in Waltham Park, down by East Avenue, we have presence there to ensure that the rules of the road are maintained,” he says.
Inspector McLeod attributes PSTEB’s early success to the highly motivated officers who were specially handpicked for assignment at the branch.
“We are a serious set of officers at the PSTEB and this is no joke initiative. We are very serious people… a special group of people, specially trained, and we are expecting that training to be shown on the roadway, not only with conformity, but even how we speak to people… it will make a difference,” he says.
The 700 PSTEB members have been specially trained to engage community members as they carry out their duties to deal with traffic, vending and the general population in public spaces. They underwent training in human rights and situational awareness, among other areas.
Inspector McLeod also notes that the officers are led by a “great motivator”, SSP Allen, who encourages them to give of their best when carrying out their duties.
“When he speaks to us, he [does so] with assurance and we know that he is there for us. He has our back, as well as the management team of PSTEB… what we have are good leaders,” he says.
The PSTEB’s operations, which constitute a merger of the JCF’s motorised patrol and traffic and highway divisions’ activities, are expected to result in improved compliance with the Road Traffic Act, reduced crime in public spaces, and increased public support of the police.
The Branch features motorcycle, motor car, bicycle and beat patrols, comprises three divisions – the Public Safety Division, Highway and Safety Patrol Division, and the Traffic Enforcement Division.
The unit’s objectives are the overall improvement of public safety through strategic deployment of police assets and personnel; and a reduction in response time to demands for police service, especially in road accidents and domestic disputes.
The PSTEB’s initial operations are in the Corporate Area, St. Catherine and major resort towns, but will eventually be expanded islandwide.