STREET BEAT: Boardwalk security concerns
SAFETY at the Richard Haynes Boardwalk in Hastings, Christ Church, has come into focus following a vicious attack on two female tourists there last week.
The area, which passes behind various restaurants and the Hasting Rocks gazebo, is a popular one for those seeking to live healthy lifestyles, enjoy the scenery and to even turtle watch as several turtles nest along that stretch of beach.
Calls have been made for increased lighting along the boardwalk as there are darkened areas where someone with criminal intent can hide.
However, such lights could negatively affect the turtle hatchlings, which are often confused by the lights and thus head towards traffic rather than the sea.
“Do they want to protect people or the turtles?” asked David Moses, who was exercising near the boardwalk.
Moses, who goes there twice a week to work out, admitted he did not know much about turtles but suggested softer lighting be put in place to accommodate them. He said he took no chances when it came to the boardwalk.
“There are certain areas you feel unsafe in, so I take coordinates from the places where you get light and don’t go down the dark areas,” he said.
The two main problem areas boardwalk users identified were the deserted looking area behind the former Caribbee Hotel and the area near Almond Bay, where tall – albeit prickly – foliage was growing. The latter area was where the attack occurred.
Even as the time approached 7 p.m., many people could still be spotted walking, running, exercising and chatting along the boardwalk.
Everton Collymore said it was not a matter of lighting but of greater security as “lights cannot stop crime”.
“The only thing they can do is to have more officers patrol at night. They need more island constables on this island,” he said.
Collymore said more lights would only mean more danger for the turtles as he had already rescued many of them.
“I does be out here and they does follow the light. I take up around 100 of them off the road already,” he said.
Algarcia Bryant said a compromise had to be found as more lighting was necessary but the turtle population had to be preserved as well.
This is the position Ronald Gittens, owner of Blakey’s on the Boardwalk, finds himself in. He said he recognised the need for more lights but had a fondness for the turtle population as well.
“At a certain time at night the lights go off as it is said they affect the turtles but there are still people walking here at 9 or 10 p.m. Still, when the sea turtle season comes, nuff turtles come here. One year I counted at least 14 turtles nesting then a few months late, so many baby turtles hatch,” he said.
Gittens also said the authorities had to do something about the vagrants along the boardwalk, which he said posed the real problem.
“Every now and again you have somebody come up on this boardwalk doing foolishness. I remember once a tourist run in here saying a man out there exposing himself and I had to go and tell him off. Still, the authorities are catching up – they can’t be here all the time but they are more active than before which is very good,” he said.
Renato Sealy was relaxing on one of the benches with a friend. He said the esplanade was fine in terms of lighting but the other areas could be dangerous.
“They probably need a bit more lighting because once it gets darker, out here can be a hazard. I would not come out here in darkness – if I did, I would have to do it knowing it was a hazard,” he said.
One woman, who requested anonymity, said the area was “incredible” but too dark, adding many people tended to get scarce as the light waned.
Owner of Tapas, Alfredo Giovine has plans for the area. He wants the business people to get together and make a proposal to Government to fully light the boardwalk, possibly using solar powered LED bulbs. He said this did not have to be year round.
“The boardwalk is an asset and we have to protect both the people and the turtles. I propose we have lighting on for the tourist season and turn them off for the turtle season or use turtle friendly lighting, it is 2016. It is not even just about the tourists either, we have to protect locals too, so many families come here on evenings,” he said.