Under siege, August Town residents beg for a ZOSO

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Under siege, August Town residents beg for a ZOSO

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica— The loud explosions and screams which punctuated the air in August Town about 1:30 pm on Sunday had residents worried and scurrying to find out who were the victims this time around.

This has become the new normal for residents of this eastern St Andrew community who claim that more than 10 of their neighbours have been killed and several others left nursing gunshot wounds in the past two months.

The latest victim was identified as 24-year-old Jahleel “Flip” Walker, a labourer of Goldsmith Villa Road in the community.

According to the police, Walker and others were making preparations for a children's party when a man on foot, armed with a handgun, entered the yard and opened fire at Walker, hitting him in the neck and upper body before escaping.

Following the shooting, most residents refused to speak to OBSERVER ONLINE and the handful willing to speak, almost uniformly expressed regret at the seemingly endless level of bloodletting in the community.

“All me want to do is to move out of this place because this look like it nah done,” said one woman.

“The police and soldier look like them decide to leave August Town to the gunman dem and only come to pick up the bodies,” added the woman as she questioned why the community has not been declared a zone of special operations (ZOSO).

On Tuesday a visibly angry councillor for the area, the People's National Party's (PNP) Venesha Phillips, told OBSERVER ONLINE that the present bloodletting stems from a combination of factors and includes rival gangsters from a number of sections of the community including the areas known as “Gaza”, “Jungle 12”, “River”, “19”, “Gola” and Hermitage.

“There are a number of factors at play. One of the first things I will not accept is that there are only two gangs operating because that is a farce and we know it. I'm not going to accept either that there is a single war going on because that, too, would be inaccurate.

“There are several conflicts going on but most of them are tied to the other because it is the same perpetrators operating in different conflicts and that complicates the situation and that is the complexity of the situation we face in August Town,” said Phillips.

She charged that there is nothing political about the violence as gangsters from areas which traditionally support the PNP and those which support the Jamaica Labour Party have joined forces based on their common enemies.

“This is rampant criminality, this is lawlessness, and it should be treated like that. The reality is that this never had to get here if we had the kind of assertive, strategic policing that is needed in the space,” said Phillips.

'I'm sure the police are going to say it is not as simple as that. I'm sure you are going to hear that they don't have the resources. But it cannot be that when a shooting happens they find the numbers,” added Phillips as she pointed to the large number of police and soldiers who rushed to the community last week when a member of the Jamaica Defence Force was shot on Bedward Crescent in the community.

Phillips argued that the security forces should have by now identified the spaces and corridors that are used by the criminals to launch their attacks and should have taken control of those by now.

According to Phillips, five teams of four soldiers and a police could easily quiet the guns in August Town without declaring a ZOSO.

“But even if you brought a ZOSO you could not have a single checkpoint because that would not stop the shootings,” said Phillips as she pointed to areas such as Barrette Drive which is used by criminals from both sides to carry out their attacks.

OBSERVER ONLINE understands that Prime Minister Andrew Holness is expected to announce a ZOSO for the community this morning, in response to the recent developments.

Arthur Hall

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