MONTEGO BAY, St James – Following his tour of the Mount Salem Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) on Friday, Opposition Leader Mark Golding has fully supported some of the residents' call for a more rapid rotation of members of the security forces in the area.
This, Golding said, is to prevent them from becoming too intimate with the civilians which may impede them from professionally discharging their duties.
“...I think that quite stands to reason that police who are generally youngish individuals being stationed in one place in one community for extended periods of time will develop all sorts of relationships on the ground. More frequent rotation would be a good idea,” contended Golding, who is the President of the People's National Party.
“They (residents) think there should be better rotation of the police in particular because they get too familiar with the boys and girls in the community and that affects the way in which the police operate...their objectivity and the persons they are prepared to deal with and not deal with and how they enforce the law and so on.”
Another concern of the residents, who also complained to the Opposition Leader that since September 2020 some six individuals have been murdered in the area, is that hoodlums circumvent the entrance of the lane where the security forces are generally posted to carry out mayhem.
“The other concern is the fact that for the most part the security forces tend to be stationed at the entrances to the lanes, but a lot of what happens in terms of the shootings and murders take place inside the lanes, towards the back, places where different lanes converge at the back and therefore easy access and easy departure for the nefarious wrongdoers. And so the whole question of how the police and soldiers operate and are stationed, and how they move around and so on, those operational issues are of some concern to the residents,” said Golding.
“So overall they are happy for the enhanced presence and that stands to reason because obviously these are volatile areas which are not really under any kind of control.”
Recently, Member of Parliament (MP) for St James West Central Marlene Malahoo Forte warned the perpetrators behind the recent deadly shootings in Mount Salem that the law will catch up with them.
“Let me just say to those persons who are operating on the wrong side of the law and are killing each other, whatever your dispute is, it is not worth it. The arm of the law is long and you will be brought to justice,” warned Malahoo Forte, who is also the attorney general.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness had declared the first ZOSO in sections of Mount Salem in 2017, which successfully stemmed violence in the community.
Since the declaration of the ZOSO, the Mount Salem community has not only seen a significant decline in murders, but has also achieved a raft of social improvements in the wake of the security measure.
Extensive work has been done in the area of waste management; a zinc fence removal project was initiated, which saw zinc fences removed and replaced with reinforced concrete walls; roads have been rehabilitated; scores of households have had their accounts regularised by the National Water Commission (NWC); a police station has been built; school and community centre refurbished, among other benefits.
The Opposition Leader, who welcomed the social improvements, expressed the need for the introduction of “sustained programmes to try and turn the mindset of some of these youngsters who are too intent on committing violent crimes”.
“And the feeling is that that is not happening in the way it should. And so in terms of a sustained solution that's not really being brought to the ground here. You know it's a learning curve, a learning experience and I think that this kind of visit helps because it gives me a better sense of what's really happening and when I am in Parliament I can advocate in more informed ways. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here in Mount Salem and indeed the whole of Montego Bay,” he said.
On Friday, Golding also met craft vendors in Montego Bay, visited residents who lost relatives to violence in the volatile Salt Spring community and also sat down with members of the business community.