Norwood residents welcome ZOSO

MONTEGO BAY, St James — There was overwhelming appreciation among residents for the zone of special operations (ZOSO) declared yesterday in the tough Norwood community of this western Jamaica city by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

But, despite the strong deployment of members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the military, fear among residents was still evident as they only spoke on condition of anonymity and not being photographed.

One woman, a member of the community, who lost close relatives, including her mother, during the long-standing violence in the area, expressed her appreciation for the enhanced security measure.

“Yes, mi welcome it. This thing [killings] going on too long. It [ZOSO] should come a long time ago, but wi only want to be sure say is not only on our side them have it, they must make sure that it over the other side as well,” she said, ostensibly hoping that the ZOSO also spans the area where rival factions are located.

A man, who sternly demanded that his picture not be taken, explained that the community is “nice” for the most part, but for the minority of hoodlums bent on tarnising the reputation. He also welcomed the ZOSO.

“Is a good move, we hope it will work because is not every youth gravitate to the crime you know, most of us are hard-working and want to enjoy ourselves. Anything to bring back the peace is welcomed,” he commented.

One elderly woman, who disclosed that she hasn’t attended night services at her church for a while because of the violence, embraced the measure in the community, where, according to the prime minister, some 15 murders and 14 shootings have occurred since the start of the year.

Since 2019, there has been 66 murders in Norwood, where six known gangs operate, with their reach extending to the entire parish, Holness said.

But, as one resident welcomed the ZOSO, he appealed to members of the security forces to refrain from violating the human rights of the residents.

“We really want it and welcome it but wi just don’t want the police and soldier dem fi infringe on the human rights of our citizens,” he emphasised.

Former People’s National Party councillor for the Norwood Division, Anthony Henry, in welcoming the ZOSO attributed the ongoing violence in the community to “a misunderstanding by factions in the community”.

He is also eagerly anticipating the social intervention side of the securty measure in the community.

“What is also needed is we want the various agencies of the State to come in to see how they can assist the citizens of this community with jobs, training, etcetera, because the lack of these contribute to crime. So we welcome the intervention of the police but we just don’t want police to just come in and barracade, they must come in with a level of intelligence,” Henry told reporters.

The Norwood ZOSO is the second to be declared in St James, following on the Mount Salem ZOSO that was the first to be declared in the country in 2017.

Since the declaration of the ZOSO, the Mount Salem community has not only seen a significant decline in murders, but has also achieved a raft of social improvements.

Extensive work has been done in the area of waste management; a zinc fence removal project was initiated, which saw zinc fences removed and replaced with reinforced concrete walls; roads have been rehabilitated; scores of households have had their accounts regularised by the National Water Commission; a police station has been built; school and community centre refurbished, among other benefits.

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