Mon | Nov 20, 2017

St James gangsters fleeing ZOSO in droves

Published:Tuesday | September 12, 2017 | 12:34 AMAdrian Frater
Jamaica Defence Force personnel in Mt Salem in Montego Bay, St James, the first zone of special operations.

 Western Bureau -

Gunmen are reportedly fleeing from St James in droves as indications are that they are fearful that the zone of special operations, which is now concentrated in Mt Salem, might soon be expanded into the other problem-plagued communities in the parish.

 “We are getting intelligence that many of the violence producers in communities like Bottom Pen, Norwood and Salt Spring are running away to other parishes,” a senior policeman, who asked not to be identified, told The Gleaner over the past weekend. “They see what is happening in Mt Salem and it has driven fear into them.”

The lawman said that based on their information, the retreating gangsters are targeting parishes like the neighbouring Westmoreland and Hanover as well as St Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon

“The criminals, especially those with resources such as the lottery scammers, turned gangsters, are not hanging around, they are running,” the policeman said.  “Many of these guys are part of an established criminal network, which spans several parishes.”

 In Westmoreland, which has been having its fair share of criminal challenges with more than 90 murders since the start of the year, commanding officer, Superintendent Lansford Salmon, is warning the migrating  criminals against seeking safe haven in that parish.

 “We are warning them not to come to Westmoreland because they are not going to find any safe haven here,” Salmon said recently. “We are also asking the residents to be on the lookout for strange men and to alert to the police whenever any is spotted.”

... 'We're going to hunt you down and lock you up'

 In Hanover, where three most wanted men were recently killed in separate confrontations with the police, the parish’s commanding officer, DSP Sharon Beeput, wants the retreating gangsters to stay out of the parish, which has recorded more than 40 murders since the start of 2017.

“We are working to make Hanover safe, after a bloody start to the year and we are not going to allow any outsiders to come into the parish and reverse the gains we have made,” said Beeput. “If they come here, we are going to hunt them down relentlessly and put them behind bars.”

Since the declaration of the ZOSO in Mt Salem on September 1, the community has all but become a model community for peace as the firing of guns, which was a nightly occurrence, has ceased and the thugs, who once held sway, have dropped out of sight.

So far, five illegal firearms, including an AK 47 assault rifle and Sig Sauer .9mm, have been found in Mt Salem and according Major Basil Jarrett, the Civil Military Cooperation Officer for the Jamaica Defence Force, the hunt for illegal weapons has now intensified.

“We strongly believe there are more illegal guns in Mt Salem and we intend to find them,” Major Jarrett told The Gleaner recently. “The first stage of the operation was to get the area under control to limit, manage, and control the entry points… Now it’s time to find the illegal guns.”

While there has been concern about the rationale  behind selecting Mt Salem as the first ZOSO, the general consensus is that, with more than 200 murders since the start of the year, St James fits all the conditions for which the ZOSO was created.