Transport operators complain about police harassment

SOME public transport operators believe they are being unfairly targeted and abused by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), but say relations with the Transport Authority has improved.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer, head of the Jamaica Association of Transport Owners and Operators (JATOO) Louis Barton said “over many years operators have been abused by both the police and Transport Authority personnel [but the] inspectors have reduced the amount of confrontation with operators, probably due to the new dispensation at the authority, but the police are still there acting in an abusive manner to transport operators”.

Barton also alleged that some members of the JCF were working in conjunction with wrecker services to unjustly seize PPV vehicles, a practice which he said has been addressed in the past, but is still problematic.

“… Right now we don’t have any reports of Transport Authority inspectors seizing vehicles but the seizure of vehicles is still happening between the towing companies and some police. There is some corruption going on there and we have reported that, but we don’t seen any evidence of it being reduced,” he stated.

Transport Minister Robert Montague, in his sectoral debate presentation in the House of Representatives last week, made reference to videos that were circulated, showing unprofessional conduct by some Transport Authority employees, and urged aggrieved operators to seek redress through the Office of the Public Defender and other State agencies. “What I am seeing is unacceptable to this minister and this Government. Clear instructions have been given for this to cease and desist,” he said, noting that investigations have been launched into the incidents.

Barton lamented that parking remains a sore issue for the operators as despite thousands of public passenger vehicles licences issued over several years, no new parking spaces have been designated, resulting in operators sometimes finding themselves in trouble with the law, even in instances where they are only allowing passengers to disembark. “Parking is determined by the officer on the spot, and the relationship with that police officer and a particular operator can also affect that decision,” he said.

He said the sector also needs special protection from criminal attacks, noting that efforts by operators to put in place security mechanism on their own some years ago had been deemed illegal and had to be stopped. “We need some type of security, however, it is to be organised,” said Barton.

Meanwhile, he commended the Transport Authority for designating spaces for rural carriers in the Half-Way-Tree area. “That so a good first step but what is the next step? Is anybody considering a next step? There must be something else,” he said.

– Alphea Saunders

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