Sat | Dec 9, 2023

Call for security blanket beyond Sav ZOSO

Westmoreland interests say operation not spread wide enough

Published:Monday | January 17, 2022 | 12:09 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer -


Former violence interrupter Bishop O’Neil Russell says the Savanna-la-Mar zone of special operations is not adequately scoped as it leaves residents exposed to the mercy of gangsters from the Gully Bank area near the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital.

“One of the things I would love to see is the security of people travelling from the downtown areas of Savanna-la-Mar going to the hospital because the ZOSO does not spread wide enough into that section,” Russell said.

“I hope something will be put in place at the hospital gate and other places up that side,” he continued, making reference to the operations of gangsters who are at war with rivals from Dexter and Dalling streets in the parish.

Russell, pastor of the Ark of the Covenant Holy Trinity Church in Westmoreland, raised that concern following the declaration of a ZOSO in the south of the Westmoreland capital by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Sunday. Three double murders are among the eight murders recorded in the parish this year.

The geographic boundaries of the ZOSO will encompass communities such as Russia, Dalling Street, and Dexter Street.

While welcoming the ZOSO, the Reverend Hartley Perrin, custos of Westmoreland, expressed similar concerns about the perimeter of the security operations.

“I don’t think the southern part of Savanna-la-Mar is the only area that has the problem. I don’t know if the area that they have chosen is exclusive, or we will see some panning out into other areas,” Perrin said.

Speaking with The Gleaner, Perrin said that the security forces should be able to cut off escape routes of these criminals in communities that ring the ZOSO.

“We would love to know if other areas are going to have some benefit from the ZOSO after the initial 60 days. It may become necessary that the other crime-plagued spaces be accounted for so that there is nowhere to run and hide,” he said.

At the same time, he is praying that members of these communities give their support.

Russell thanked Holness for listening to the voice of the people in declaring the ZOSO as part of measures to curtail the murder surge in the parish. He is equally optimistic that more lives will be saved.

“Since the declaration I can see more people displaying a sense of confidence in their community,” the inner-city Coke Street-based pastor said. “I hope that the ZOSO will make a difference because I noticed that this type of measure is in other communities and murders are still taking place.”

Head of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce, Moses Chybar, is embracing the ZOSO in a section of the business district but wants to see an economic programme and employment opportunities that will sway young people away from crime.

The security operation, he said, must be followed up with economic programmes and meaningful social intervention.

He also called for a diversification of industries in the western parish, saying that tourism and sugar cane cultivation made Westmoreland vulnerable to economic shocks. Inflation, too, has had a deleterious effect, the chamber boss said.

“Sugar is literally dead, and tourism went down with the iteration of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with this fourth wave, I am sure it will definitely negatively impact the tourism sector, especially with the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases,” said Chybar.

“... I don’t think people are looking for hand-outs but rather opportunities.”