Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, has declared Denham Town in West Kingston as the second Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) under the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act.
Details were provided by the Prime Minister at a press conference held today (October 17) at Jamaica House.
A full-strength joint Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) personnel have been in the area since 5:00 a.m.
Lieutenant Colonel Murphy Pryce of the JDF, and Senior Superintendent of Police, Everald Linton, are jointly in charge of operations in Denham Town.
Mr. Holness informed that the selected Zone has been deemed to have met the first-order criteria for being considered and declared a zone.
“Those first-order criteria would have been the ongoing gang warfare, rampant criminality, escalating violence and murder, and a threat to rule of law,” he explained.
The Prime Minister noted that several other communities would have been deemed as meeting the first-order criteria; however, for strategic reasons, “we have decided to declare Denham Town as the second zone of operations”.
He also reiterated that all members of the joint force were trained in human rights, adding that the security personnel were trained in the protocols of operations of the accountability and reporting framework.
In addition, all ballistic signatures of weapons used in the Zone have been registered and documented.
“There is a system of identification of all members of the joint force in place. In this phase of the second zone, residents can expect to encounter checkpoints, cordons and searches, curfews and targeted operations, and residents should be prepared to provide identification,” he said.
The Prime Minister noted that the operation of the Zone will be closely monitored by the National Security Council. He also encouraged all residents to be positive in their interactions with the security forces.
Mr. Holness said this is an opportunity for residents of the area to work with the security forces to rid their area of the criminal elements. He added that this process can be aided by sharing information with the police, or through Crime Stop.
Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police, George Quallo, informed that there are 12 known gangs operating in Denham Town.
He noted that since 2015, there has been gang conflict between Tivoli Gardens’ Young Generation gang and the Denham Town Coalition.
“This has resulted in several murders, shootings and robberies. Gang conflicts currently exist between the Upsetter gang and the Superstar gang as a result of a fight for the control of turf,” Mr. Quallo added.
He noted that the ongoing gang feud has resulted in increased violence in the area, which directly affects the free movement of residents and is also negatively impacting economic and social activities within the community and surrounding areas.
“The Denham Town community has been plagued with serious crimes, resulting in approximately 82 victims between six and 65 years old in 2017. Murders and shootings primarily resulted from the feud between the Tivoli Gardens gang and the Denham Town Coalition gang,” Mr. Quallo said.
He pointed out that most of the murders, shootings and robberies occurred at Dumfries Street, Spanish Town Road, Wellington Street and Rose Lane.
The Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act was passed earlier this year in the Parliament. It seeks to contain crime while safeguarding the human rights of residents and promoting community development through social intervention initiatives.
The law gives the Prime Minister power to declare an area a Zone of Special Operations in order to tackle increased crime and volatility in a community. This is in consultation with the National Security Council.
The Zone can only be established after the Police Commissioner and the Chief of Defence Staff make a request for such a declaration in writing to the Prime Minister.
The first Zone was declared in Mount Salem, St. James, on September 1.
By Latonya Linton