Do More! PNP councillor slams Mount Salem ZOSOThursday, April 15, 2021
BY ROCHELLE CLAYTON
MONTEGO BAY, St James - People's National Party (PNP) councillor for the Mount Salem Division, Kerry Thomas says the zones of special operations (ZOSOs) implemented in sections of the division “has become significantly complacent”.
Addressing the recent regular monthly meeting of the St James Municipal Corporation, Thomas argued that while he would admit that the ZOSOs has done “some good” for the community, more needs to be done.
“I am going to raise my concern with the level of crime that is currently happening within St James, and within my division. A section of my division has been [under] ZOSO for three years, and while it has done some good, I am still very concerned significantly by the fact that over the last four or five months, we have had about three murders in the zone,” said Thomas.
“I am concerned; I do think the zone is starting to reach a place of diminishing returns. In other words, the policing that is taking place, I think has become significantly complacent with the residents and they are not having the effects of what we had anticipated, what we had hoped for, and what we are expecting from the zone of special operations in Mount Salem. I think we need to look carefully at it, and I think the police need to look and see how best we can curve what is happening within that zone.”
He stressed that there is a need for more social intervention programmes within the zone.
“I think we need to look more on the softer side of policing in the zone of special operations to try and effect some of the changes that [were] anticipated at the beginning of the zone of special operations, and crime in general,” he declared.
Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor for the Spring Garden Division, Dwight Crawford, who was also in attendance at the meeting, scolded Thomas for what he deems as an attack on the police.
“I think it is a little unfair for Councillor Thomas to be attacking the police and their approach in the special operations. The police have been on the ground working and they have been doing a relatively good job. I think what is missing is the [social] intervention, where the councillor, in his role now, needs to get more involved because these [are] social issues the councillor is expecting from the police,” Crawford argued.
“The expectations and the conversation that I heard Councillor Thomas coming with, is something that I have been hearing all around, and it is disheartening to hear a leader echoing that same sentiment. The social intervention that is needed, the police are not trained for that. Police are police officers. As a community leader who [oversees] the Mount Salem Division, Mr Thomas should be leading the social intervention as the councillor.”
Councillor for the Montego Bay West Division, David Brown (JLP), also expressed his disagreement with Thomas' stance.
“The ZOSO that was implemented in Mount Salem, a lot of us on my side of the aisle wish we had one because the social framework that has been put in place has diametrically shifted that community to a better trajectory. They have had birth certificates being issued, jobs being found, Dr [Joan] Dove, [Local Economic Development officer], has done a tremendous job with the Local Economic Development (LED) programme up there, removal of zinc fence…so, for him (Thomas) to come here...and sometimes this is why these things are laughable, to see a councillor who has benefited more than any other councillor, to come now and discredit the police, to juxtapose the police to say the police are on one side and the civilians are on another side, that does not make any sense,” Brown argued.
The community of Mount Salem was declared Jamaica's first ZOSO in September 2017.
Since then, there has been a raft of social interventions in the area, including the formation of parenting support groups, neighbourhood watches, sports programme, skills training, the refurbishing of the Mount Salem Primary School, the rehabilitation of the community centre, construction of a police station as well as a massive zinc fence removal programme.
During a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the police station last November, Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared that the interventions undertaken in Mount Salem, since the community was declared a ZOSO, has significantly transformed the area.
“We have removed zinc fences… we have repaired roadways, we have cleared drains, we have regular waste collection in the area, we have given the citizenry access to critical services and amenities...,” he noted.
“The mindset in Mount Salem is changing…they see that the Government is investing in transforming their lives. The citizens of Mount Salem today is not the same person they were five years ago, and that is the ultimate level of transformation.”
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