ZOSO is working in Mount Salem

Residents, politicians join in praising anti-crime initiative

Thursday, April 19, 2018

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Seven months after the zone of special operations (ZOSO) started in the community of Mount Salem, councillors from both sides of the political divide at the St James Municipal Corporation are lauding the measure, saying that many lives have been positively impacted.

The zone of special operations was implemented in the St James inner-city community on September 1 last year and was extended last week by the House of Representatives for another three months. Mount Salem was the first of two communities in the island where ZOSO was implemented in an effort to tackle crime and violence and to address a raft of social ills in the community. The other is Denham Town in Kingston.

People's National Party (PNP) Councillor for the Mount Salem Division, Kerry Thomas, noted that while there is more work to be done, many lives have been positively impacted because of ZOSO.

“In the beginning, as was said, the headlines were not what we wanted it to be. But, as I have said on many occasions, the zone has attributes to it that will uplift and develop the lives of the residents of the community of Mount Salem, and that has started to take place, and there are things that are yet to come. I must say the lives of the residents of Mount Salem are better,” Thomas argued.

At Thursday's regular monthly meeting of the corporation, Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor for the Montego Bay South Division, Richard Vernon, argued that the negative headlines from the community is a thing of the past since the implementation of ZOSO.

“Months ago, if you followed the newspaper and listen to what was being broadcast in the media, you see controversial murder figures causing tension in Mount Salem, you see gang war murder in Mount Salem; you would also see man shot and killed in Mount Salem, you would see Mount Salem taxi operator murdered…. I'm pleased to announce that today you don't find those kind of headlines,” stated Vernon.

“What we are seeing today is a multipronged approach implemented by the Government, and I would like to look at it as the collection of arms being the lesser part of ZOSO and social intervention being the major part.”

Vernon, whose division is located next to Mount Salem, listed a number of achievements and initiatives being implemented in the community which he would like to see replicated in his own division.

“Twenty-five community animators were trained, 100 residents received supplies through the Mount Salem SDA (Seventh-day Adventist) Church, 115 households were regularised by the National Water Commission, and now what ZOSO is doing is changing gears — because now coming, two miles of main road will be rehabilitated in Mount Salem,” disclosed Vernon, who added, “Mr Chairman, I need a zone of special operation”.

Apart from skills training, Vernon also disclosed that citizens are now able to access business grants of up to $25 million.

“Citizens will now have access to between $1.5 million to $25 million for business grants. Skills training is in place, over 100 students recruited for skills training and you can subscribe to the PDC (Parish Development Committee) report for more information,” said Vernon.

President of the Mount Salem Community Development Committee (CDC), Winsome Barnes, expressed similar sentiments.

“As a community member, I can say it is working and has worked. It will be up to the community to ensure it lasts,” Barnes stressed.

She said the implementation of the social intervention aspect of the zone of special operations was slow at first. however, she added, “we are now reaping some of the benefits.”

Barnes pointed to the main road in the community which was repaired under phase one of the road repair programme, pointing out that more roads are slated to get attention shortly. She added that the Jamaica Social Investment Fund will be constructing a classroom block at the Mount Salem Primary and Junior High School, as the original block, she said, was condemned due to termite infestation.

“A parenting programme was also implemented in the community,” she told the Jamaica Observer West.

However, she expressed regret that several youths in the community were not making enough effort to access the skills training being offered.

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