SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has assured Westmoreland residents that plans are in train for the establishment of a zone of special operation (ZOSO) to decrease the spiralling murder rate in the parish.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared a ZOSO in Parade Gardens, central Kingston, which recorded the second-highest percentage of murders last year.
Speculation was rife that a ZOSO would have also been declared in Westmoreland after the parish ended last year with a 60 per cent increase in murders, the highest across the 19 police divisions. Last year, the Westmoreland police tallied some 128 murders — 48 more than the 80 recorded the previous year.
Speaking at a public forum hosted by the Ministry of National Security at Mannings School on Thursday night, Dr Chang assured the residents that in addition to other security measures now in place in the parish, implementation of a ZOSO — an enhanced security measure — was also in the making.
He explained that the planning would involve settling on the communities most suitable for the measure.
“Pretty soon we will give you more activities. The planning for other [security] activities such as zones will take a little while, but not long. It [planning] has been going on to look at which districts might be amenable to that kind of intervention, and we have to put resources — both the police and monetary — in place very quickly because we are not allowing this to get out of hand as it did last year,” Dr Chang told told the community forum.
“I know it is early days [but] yes, it will be here soon. We are not going to allow criminals to put us off too long, and we are going to intervene for the people of Westmoreland.”
Noting that the Government has recognised the crime challenges in the parish, the security minister disclosed that some 47 additional police officers were recently deployed to Westmoreland. He added that a special operations team has also been working in the parish.
“... They are working. I think they have had at least one major operation in Whithorn only today [Thursday] and apprehended a team of the criminals who are in there creating havoc, and they [special operations team] will continue on the road,” Dr Chang said.
“It is a very good team; they operate on the basis of intelligence and they will find and apprehend the people. The teams, of course, operate for short times on specialised operations initiated by the [Police] High Command.”
The security minister also announced Government's plan to invest in the upgrade of police stations in the parish.