'There is a lot of crime and the police are extremely stretched'
A police checkpoint in Norwood, St James, where a zone of pecial operations is now in place.(Photo: Philp Lemonte)
Opposition presses for more intervention to slow crime rate in Corporate Area

STRIDENT calls were yesterday made from Opposition parliamentary benches for the Government to take action to stem rising crime in sections of the Corporate Area, with a recently imposed zone of special operations (ZOSO) in the crime hot spot of Norwood, St James, said to be resulting in zero crimes already.

Opposition Leader Mark Golding, commenting on a statement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on the impact of the measure so far, said that while that clampdown was appreciated, areas such as Kingston Central and other communities along the southern belt of the Corporate Area, including his constituency, continue to experience concerning levels of bloodletting.

“The situation in the southern belt of the Corporate Area remains very unstable. There is a lot of crime, a lot of murders, the police are extremely stretched in managing the situation which affects not only my own constituency but others as well,” Golding said yesterday.

The Opposition leader said the situation in the country was a clear indication that measures such as the ZOSOs could not be depended on as the sole or ultimate fix.

“The police just do not have the resources to manage; there needs to be a national programme which gets to those vulnerable youth which are for one reason or another attracted or drawn to those levels of criminality,” Golding stated.

In the meantime, St Andrew Western Member of Parliament Anthony Hylton urged the Administration to remember the Riverton area of his constituency.

“I am pleased for Norwood, but concerned about St Andrew Western and the southern belt. The Riverton community is very much an area of concerns [as] daily murders and shootings are increasing.

“When these shootings occur and these communities are unstable, should we wait until we have some extraordinary numbers before we respond?” Hylton said.

“It doesn't have to go to the extreme where it is ZOSO or nothing. In addition to the curfews and the cordons, there are other social and underlying conditions that can be addressed. I continue to appeal for those responses in communities like Riverton and others,” Hylton said.

The prime minister, in responding, said his Government “intends to ensure that there is no safe space for criminals in Jamaica”.

“On the argument that there are other communities that are equally deserving, the Government has identified the 20 communities that contribute significantly to murders and other violent crimes,” Holness said. He said while there are serious resource constraints, further exacerbated by the pandemic which has affected the Government's ability to roll out planned interventions in a reasonable time, the commitment was to eventually reach all of these communities.

Speaking earlier in the sitting, Holness said the Norwood area accounted for the highest proportion of both murders and shootings in St James. He said from January 1 to June 20, when the ZOSO was declared, Norwood accounted for 15 homicides, representing 12.6 per cent; and 14 shootings, representing 26 per cent of the total for the St James Division.

According to the prime minister, since the declaration of the zone there have been no homicides or shootings in the area. He said an overwhelming majority of violence in Norwood can be attributed to feuding among the six main gangs. Over the past two years gang wars have contributed to 66 murders in the area, 15 of which would have taken place this year.

The ZOSO has been declared for a period of 60 days from Sunday, June 20 to Friday August 20.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

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