Wednesday 23 May, 2018

Mount Salem, Denham Town ZOSOs extended; more on the way, says PM

Members of the security forces  process Denham Town residents after a Zone of Special Operation was declared in the West Kingston community last year.

Members of the security forces process Denham Town residents after a Zone of Special Operation was declared in the West Kingston community last year.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has revealed that more Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) will be implemented across the country as the Government takes the fight to criminals.

The Prime Minister, who was speaking Tuesday in the House of Representatives, said the planning for more ZOSOs is already underway. He has promised to include the parliamentary opposition in the discussions.

Holness was speaking on a motion he brought to the House to extend by 60 days, the ZOSOs in Mount Salem in St James, and Denham Town in West Kingston.

The extension will be for an additional 60 days, effective February 14.

This is the third extension for Mount Salem and the second for Denham Town. In Denham Town, Holness said the zone is in the hold phase and “it is expected that the transition to the build phase will soon follow.”

He said there continued to be significant gains in Denham Town where there is a zinc fence renewal project underway, among other programmes.

Anticipating questioning on why the Mount Salem ZOSO was being continued when there was an ongoing State of Public Emergency in the parish of St James, the Prime Minister noted that the ZOSO was now in the implementation phase where social programmes were being undertaken. He said the security forces needed more time to get the work done.

“...That social intervention requires that there is a certain definite security presence that is maintained.”

Holness noted that the National Works Agency (NWA) had commenced a road works programme in Mount Salem where mostly “informal tracks” exist. That programme is slated to end in March. He said a zinc fence removal project is slated to commence this month and will run until April.

At the same time, residents are being exposed to skills training and other programmes by various public/private sector entities.

“It is through collaborative efforts that real sustainable changes will occur and real sustainable changes are happening in Mount Salem,” he said.

In further justifying the extensions, the Prime Minister noted that since ZOSOs were implemented in the two communities, there have been no reports of murder or other serious crimes.

“Likewise, there have been no reports of abuse by any state actor,” he said.

And the Prime Minister said with a representative of the European Union visiting the ZOSO in Denham Town and being impressed by the work taking place, there is the possibility that there could be support for some of the social programmes and security programmes surrounding communities like Denham Town.

For his part, opposition leader Dr Peter Phillips, while giving support for the extension, said the country must be mindful that “while we all applaud the reduction of crime in these particular communities, there is still a wave of criminal activity taking place in the rest of the country which must be addressed.”

He questioned the long term sustainability of the programme in light of the manpower that is needed in each of the zones. Phillips said the deployment of police personnel in Denham Town means other communities are not being policed to the degree that is needed.

Dr Phillips also sought answers on “what are the independent, identifiable factors which distinguish the clear hold, and the build phase of each of the ZOSO.”  He said the country should know what the criteria for each phase are.

“By what measure will the country know when one ZOSO can come to an end and we move on to the other phases?” he asked.

In the end, the House gave unanimous support for the extension.