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Gangsters delay plans for ZOSOs in western Jamaica

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

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THE Government says it is planning to extend its social intervention anti-crime strategy, zones of special operations (ZOSOs), in western Jamaica, as soon as possible.

However, there is one major obstacle that must first be cleared, and that is the capture of western Jamaica's most wanted criminal, Delano “Prekeh Boy” Wilmot, and his gang.

“There is a very comprehensive plan to address some of the communities in Westmoreland,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the House of Representatives last week Tuesday, as members debated the extension of five of the existing states of emergency (SOEs) covering Clarendon, Hanover, St Catherine, St James, and parts of the Corporate Area.

He was responding to questions from Westmoreland Western Member of Parliament Dr Wykeham McNeill, about delays in bringing the social intervention programme into the parish, despite him complaining about the continued high levels of crimes, including murders.

The original ZOSO was set up in the St James community of Mount Salem on September 1, 2017, followed by a second in Denham Town, Kingston, on October 17, 2017, under the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act — there has been no extension of the programme into any other area since.

However, Holness has consistently raised the possibility of adding several more to impact crime-ridden areas through social intervention.

Last week Tuesday, he raised the issue again, only this time he was insisting that funds are available, but admitted that another obstacle has arisen in the shape of heavily armed and well-financed gangs and gangsters who the police are claiming have a haven to hide out in Haiti, where they control the “guns for drugs” market between Port-au- Prince and Jamaica.

According to Holness, many of the communities in Westmoreland and Hanover are informal settlements in need of social intervention, but the challenge is that the social intervention would not help if it is limited to six to 12 months.

“We need a five-year-long intervention,” he explained, “as these gangs are imbedded in the community and thrive on criminal activities, including all forms of trafficking and lottery scamming, creating a need to deal with the subculture the criminal networks has developed in some areas.”

He said that in eastern Westmoreland, there is a particular gangster who is at large, named “Prekeh Bwoy”, who terrorises the area and parts of St Elizabeth.

“Mr Speaker, that criminal is still creating problems in the area, and while we have been able to contain the level of crime and murders in the area since we have had this state of public emergency, we are still searching for him.

What we don't want to do is to take those two areas out of the state of emergency and still have at large a criminal of that nature,” the prime minister stated.

“The people in Westmoreland will understand that I am saying how dangerous a criminal that particular fugitive is. So, I wouldn't want to advance any argument to change the present construct of the tri-parish (Westmoreland, Hanover and St James) state of emergency.

Let it continue until the time allotted for the extension, and let the security forces apprehend that particular person,” he informed the House. However, capturing “Prekeh Bwoy” may not be as easy as the prime minister might have been led to believe.

The latest explanation from the police leadership in these areas suggests that the most prominent criminals, who flee these parishes to escape the SOEs and ZOSOs are not necessarily fleeing to other parishes in Jamaica but to Haiti, where the trade in “guns for drugs” seem to be flourishing, and providing a sanctuary for Jamaica's wanted criminals.

Regarded as the most elusive gangster since Marlon “Duppy Film” Perry, Wilmot is said to be a prominent crime producer involved in the “guns for drugs” trafficking between Jamaica and Haiti.

He has escaped numerous dragnets, primarily because of his familiarity with the rugged and dark hills and the many escape routes through virtual shanty towns where he is feared in western Jamaica.

Although several of his close inner guards have been killed by the police, including his deputy Richard “Cruise” Anderson, he continues to elude law enforcers, and many of the residents of these areas, as well as police, are convinced that he relies on the “strong obeah” he buys from voodoo priests in Haiti.

“Prekeh Bwoy” is a former member of the once-feared Ratty Gang, but after police killed its former leader Ryan Peterkin, he formed his own unit. He is wanted in connection with the murder of several relatives of Peterkin and other members of the former Ratty Gang, which was financed primarily by funds from lottery scammers. The police have confirmed that “Prekeh Bwoy” and his colleagues, as well as several other wanted criminals in Jamaica, have been hiding out in Haiti since the intervention of the SOEs.

St James police chief Vernon Ellis was last week reported as confirming that a number of the men who have fled that jurisdiction, had been killed overseas and their bodies returned to Jamaica for burial.

Named among them was Shaniel Luton, who is understood to have been sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia in 2015, after he escaped police custody while awaiting sentencing for a double murder. He is believed to have been killed in Haiti.

Holness told the House of Representatives last week Tuesday that part of the Government's long-term plan to reduce crime in that section of the island is a programme to intervene in at least 20 communities, including parts of Westmoreland, with a high level of social intervention included in the budget.

“One thing that we can safely say is that they [ZOSOs] have worked, and you are going to get longterm results, after we have taken them [communities] out of the ZOSOs. These communities will become wardens of their own peace for a long period of time,” he said.

“We have secured some funding, we have developed the framework, and, at the appropriate time, we will come to Parliament and explain how the framework will operate in the communities that will be declared under the ZOSOs,” he added


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