More ZOSOs not the answer in Westmoreland, says police commish
Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson; National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang; and commanding officer for Westmoreland police division, Senior Superintendent Wayne Josephs, in discussion ahead of a media briefing in Savanna-la-Mar last week (Photo: Anthony Lewis)

SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Pleased with the dampening effect a zone of special operations (ZOSO) has had on crime in Savanna-la-Mar South, Westmoreland's top cop has called for ZOSOs to be rolled out in other sections of the parish. However, the police commissioner has shot down the suggestion, carefully explaining the resource constraints and legal implications of such a move.

"The area where the zone was implemented was the biggest hot spot in the parish and since January when it was implemented, we had no murders at all until the sixth month of the year," said head of the Westmoreland Police Division, Senior Superintendent Wayne Josephs.

During the corresponding period of the previous year, approximately 13 people were killed in Savanna-la-Mar.

"In June we have one murder and I can assure you that that murder has been cleared. Somebody has been arrested and charged. Since that, we haven't had any other murders inside of the parish," said Josephs.

He was referring to the June 30 killing of 17-year-old Jayre Francis, otherwise called 'Jay', of a Ricketts Street address. Francis was found dead in a yard with multiple gunshot wounds to his upper body.

Ricketts Street falls under the ZOSO declared in Savanna-la-Mar South in January as a means of addressing rampant criminality, saving lives, and protecting communities. The other communities covered are Russia, Dalling Street and Dexter Street.

"I can also tell you that when you traverse the space within the zone, and when you get the feedback from the residents, they are happy to have this one within their space, because prior to that they were afraid to move from one point to another and to traverse the space. But the feedback that you get is that they are happy to see the security forces and I believe it is something that should be replicated in other places going forward," said SSP Josephs during last week's media briefing at the police divisional headquarters in Savanna-la-Mar.

However, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson, who was also present, explained why that approach was impractical.

"If we do it in other parts, then we will never have the resources because it is very resource-intensive to do. It is really about securing a space where activities there creates a hot spot; but assets will have to be kept there to maintain that," explained Anderson.

"So, the way the zone operates, it reduces the opportunities for murder in that space. But the way the Act is framed, it does not target the person doing the crime. It gives us extra power to do things but other than that it operates pretty normally," the commissioner added.

Joseph's call may have been influenced by the fact that the Westmoreland communities of Grange Hill and Negril have become a hotbed of crime. National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang said there is a plan to pump more resources into and roll out social intervention programmes in Grange Hill.

"I think that there are two gangs operating there now. You have the Kings Valley Gang which we have had some arrests from and they are doing some internal killings. There is an Ants Posse and an original Sterling Gang which has kinda been disruptive but their remnants were scattered around," he explained.

Apart from scamming, gang activity is being seen as a major contributor to the parish's soaring crime figures.

Up to last Thursday when the comments were made, the parish had recorded 107 murders; 49 have been cleared up.

"This is actually a lot. By international standards, that is very good," said SSP Josephs.

Since Thursday, there have been three more murders in Westmoreland, pushing the tally to 110 since the start of the year.

The Savanna-la-Mar South ZOSO is the seventh implemented across the country. The others were established in Norwood and Mount Salem, St James; Parade Gardens, Central Kingston; Denham Town, West Kingston and Greenwich Town and August Town, St Andrew.

BY ANTHONY LEWIS Observer writer

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