Pro-Dudus sign on Tivoli barber shop
Tivoli six months AD (After Dudus)
The story was originally written by Dania Bogle and posted to the BBC Caribbean.com page
The small sticker posted above the door of the tiny ply wood barber shop said it all – Dudus a God Bless.

Residents say that conditions have taken a turn for the worse in Tivoli Gardens since the incursion in May which ultimately led to the extradition to the United States of area don Christopher “Dudus” Coke.

Coke is in a US jail awaiting trial on drug trafficking and related charges.

Six months later without their erstwhile leader, they claim they are in dire straits with no prospects.

Some of them say that before they felt safe to walk the streets freely late at night, leave their doors and burglar bars open, and get money to send their children to school and buy food when they were hungry.

Now, their women claim they are being raped, they have no money, no jobs, and no hope of getting one once they reveal their addresses to prospective employers.

To make matters worse, they are being victimised by the very police who have been sworn to serve and protect them.

Residents: no life without Dudus

“There’s a big difference…we have nobody to hear our cry right now,” one resident who gave his name only as Jermaine told BBC Caribbean.

“Dudus play a major role in my life and without Dudus is like the last day I’m living,” another said.

Pro-Dudus poster
Many residents had openly showed their support for the alleged drug trafficker

The women were more concerned. The night before, one of their friends had been held by police for what they considered a minor offence – not telling them her full name when she was asked to identify herself.

“If they (police) see us on the road late they shine light in our faces, they run us off the road,” they told BBC Caribbean.

Police: life goes on

The police tell a different story.

Deputy Superintendent and second in charge of the police post in the community, Anthony McLaughlin, while admitting that there is still some way to go for the residents to completely trust the security forces, said that they are proceeding with their lives as normal.

He said that the major gangs have been up-rooted with only remnants of them operating from nearby communities.

“We are doing everything in our powers to destabilise, dismantle those gangs,” he said.

“As it is now, they are not a threat to the operations but what we are doing is not to allow them to grow or allowing anyone to take root and carry on the activities of previous years.”

Then and now

On the surface, it is very difficult to believe this is the same place that only a few months ago this was a volatile area as police and supporters of “Dudus” exchanged gunfire.

Building on fire in Tivoli gardens
It was tense in Tivoli six months ago

At the adjacent Coronation Market, there was a traffic queue stretching for up a quarter mile long in all directions as busy shoppers sought out the best deals on their weekly Saturday morning run.

Head of Psychiatry at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Dr. Wendel Abel, told BBC Caribbean that Tivoli Gardens residents will feel vulnerable without their leader.

“Because their protector is gone,” he said. “Their source of welfare…provided support to the local communities, sent children to school, help mothers in crisis…all of this is gone.”

The future

One person who has now clearly assumed a high visibility role in the community role in Tivoli Gardens is Norris Livingston.

He said the Jamaican government hopes to re-open factories in the area which have been closed for many years.

“Where jobs is concerned now it’s only a kind of hand to mouth,” he added.

More immediately, Livingston said, clean-up work is being done in the area though the project was hampered by Tropical Storm Nicole in September.

“They are doing some beautification. We have it in the pipeline for the roads to start fix but true to (because of) the weather we don’t see that as yet.”

Dr. Abel has noted that though things may still be relatively bad in Tivoli Gardens right now, for Jamaica, he notes, the situation is better because the security forces have retaken control.

He says there’s been a 40 per cent reduction in murders and an overall reduction in the crime rate.

“There’s a general sense of safety and well-being across the island,” he said.

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