August Town: 'Small community, plenty gangs'
Major General Antony Anderson
August Town in eastern St Andrew is a community of just 4.7 square kilometres yet it is home to no less than seven heavily armed gangs battling each other for control of the geographic space.
This is according to Police Commissioner, Major General Antony Anderson, and is part of the reason why, in collaboration with Chief of Defence Staff Lieutenant General Rocky Meade, he recommended to Prime Minister Andrew Holness that a Zone of Special Operation (ZOSO) be declared in the violence-plagued community.
Holness accepted the recommendation and in turn asked Governor General Sir Patrick Allen to declare the area a ZOSO in keeping with the provisions of the Law Reform, Zones of Special Operations, Special Security and Community Development Act of 2017.
“These gangs disrupt the lives and livelihoods of the residents and hijack any social intervention process implemented within the community,” Anderson told a press conference Wednesday morning.
This was shortly after Holness, speaking at the same Jamaica House press conference, announced that August Town was now a ZOSO.
It came after seven residents were murdered this year and another 14 shot and injured.
“All of the murders and shootings in August Town have been attributed to gangs and everyone who has been murdered in the community has died by the gun,” Anderson stated.
The fact that the gangs are heavily armed is demonstrated in 16 combined incidents of murders and shootings where the security forces recovered over 100 spent casings or rounds from weapons, including rifles and shotguns at the crime scenes, said the commissioner.
“Another reality is that the gunmen from August Town often carry out their violent activities in other policing subdivisions,” Anderson said. This includes the neighbouring Papine police station area where there has been seven murders and three shootings which, according to the commissioner “are not unrelated to what’s happening in August Town”.
He said that other crimes are down in August Town but the gangsters are fixated in their intention to carry out violent acts. This leaves residents cowering in fear of the gunmen and as such they refuse to come forward as witnesses.
“Therefore, we are creating an environment (through the ZOSO) that will allow persons to come forward and tell what they know,” Anderson said.
The ZOSO will allow for targeted interventions by not just the security forces, but other agents of the state, including the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).