(JIS) – Mount Salem Residents Welcome Security Operations: Residents of Mount Salem in St. James are declaring their support for the Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO), expressing the hope that the presence of the security forces will help bring peace to their community.
“I have no problem with what is taking place,” said 58-year old Claudette Watkis, who has lived in Mount Salem all her life.
Ms. Watkins, who spoke to JIS NEWS on September 2, said the security operations in the area are necessary.
“I am just hoping and praying that whatever inconvenience we are currently experiencing will be worth it in the long run,” she added.
Joyce Matthews, another resident, noted that the security forces are operating in a professional manner.
“It was a little strange at first to see so many soldiers and police but to be honest, they have been very professional and courteous and are just here to do a job,” she told JIS NEWS.
“Persons, who are not wrongdoers are not afraid to go through the checkpoints,” she noted.
For his part, Justice of the Peace (JP), Marcus McKenzie, said that while it is still too early to make a reasonable assessment “I have not seen anything that would warrant any form of criticism.”
“What has been happening as far as the crime situation in the western region is concerned is certainly untenable,” he told JIS NEWS.
“As a community, we all are in support of anything that will bring crime under control. Like other JPs, however, we have a vested interest in seeing that things are done in a proper manner and that there will be no human rights abuses,” he pointed out.
In the meantime, Civil Military Cooperation and Media Affairs Officer of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Major Basil Jarrett, said that up to Saturday (September 2), 1, 300 persons have been searched as well as 334 vehicles and 13 houses.
“We have also detained some 42 persons using the system we had established with the JPs,” Major Jarrett said.
“However, a majority of these persons have since been released. We have also recovered 10 offensive weapons; primarily knives,” he told JIS NEWS.
Major Jarrett informed that persons have been able to leave their homes at their own free will.
He said the operations of the security forces “are in keeping with what have been established as it relates to the Zones of Special Operations (law).”
For his part, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Clifford Blake, said he is pleased with the operations on the ground, noting that his job is to ensure that the rights of citizens are protected and that persons can move around without experiencing much inconvenience.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, on September 1, declared Mount Salem and its environs as the first Zone of Special Operations under the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act.
The law seeks to contain crime while safeguarding the human rights of residents and promoting community development through social intervention initiatives.
The security operations in Mount Salem will last for 60 days.
According to information provided by the police, some 12 gangs are operating in the area, which has recorded 54 murders since the start of the year, 16 in the Crawford Street district alone.
In 2014, there were 46 murders in the area, with the figure increasing to 70 in 2015, and 85 in 2016.