RJR News /
The Jamaican Government is facing more calls to establish Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) in other communities as it grapples with an alarming increase in murders.
With more than 1300 people murdered since the start of the year, the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce has declared that it’s time for an island-wide imposition of these zones, the first of which was established in Mount Salem, a section of that western Jamaica city.
T’Shura Gibbs, President of the Chamber, believes that this will be effective in tackling the country’s crime problem.
“If we’re talking about ZOSO accomplishing something of peace and quiet and calm and reduction of violence in the community that it is located in, then it would have done its job, but if we’re talking about getting the gangs and getting the guns, then obviously that has not worked, she said.
For it to be truly effective in breaking up the gangs and recovering illegal guns, she believes it has to be imposed simultaneously across many other communities.
Already, she said, residents of Mount Salem are expressing fear that, once the security presence in their community is significantly reduced, the gangs will return and reassert their control over their lives.
It was therefore important, she said, to expand the reach of this anti-crime initiative, accompanied by meaningful social intervention programmes.
Miss Gibbs was speaking in the wake of the latest killings in Montego Bay, including that of Omar Lewis, in Catherine Hall.
Investigators say Lewis was gunned down about 8 o’clock.
Police say Lewis had just entered his car, which was parked on the roadway near to a shop, when another car drove up and three men alighted and opened fire. He was reportedly shot some nine times.
Shortly after that killing, gunshots were fired in the vicinity of Hart Street and Barnett Street and the occupants of a car were robbed by four armed men, reportedly seeking to avenge the death of Lewis.
Marlene Malahoo Forte, Member of Parliament for St. James West Central, who went to the scene of Lewis’s murder, expressed grave concern about the spate of killings in St. James, the parish in which Montego Bay is situated.
Malahoo Forte, who is also the country’s Attorney-General, told RJR News that the government will have to look at extending the presence of the security forces to other areas of the parish.
It was in June that Parliament enacted legislation authorising the police and military to operate under the authority of the Zones of Special Operations law.
The government had said at the time that it anticipated imposing only two of these special zones at any one time.
The first ZOSO was established in Mount Salem on September 1. That authorisation is set to expire next Tuesday – October 31, unless Parliament opts to extend it.
Malahoo Forte asserted that the presence of the police and soldiers in Mount Salem had made “a remarkable difference,” and accordingly conceded that” the government will have to look at what is required to extend that presence as far and wide as possible, because withing the zone, persons are reporting… unprecedented peace – no shootings, no killings, but outside of it, now we’re seeing a flare up.”
The second zone was declared in Denham Town, West Kingston a week ago.