Parade Gardens tense as ZOSO declared

RESIDENTS of Parade Gardens in central Kingston are cautiously welcoming a just enforced zone of special operations (ZOSOs) with some admitting that there are ‘trust’ issues with the police and others painfully declaring “it can’t bring them back”, in reference to lives lost in bloody feuding last year.

Central Kingston, which has been turned into an active war zone by competing gangs, according to the police, for the period January 1 to December 31 last year recorded 79 murders — an increase of 55 per cent when compared to the corresponding period of 2020, making it the second highest percentage increase among all police divisions averaging about three murders every two weeks.

Parade Gardens, the police said, recorded 16 of these murders and is ranked among the top 10 communities with the highest murders across the country. According to Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson, “a number of these killings have been perpetrated by and on persons who grew up together and have subsequently chosen a life of violence where they resolve conflicts by murder”.

On Sunday, residents within the boundary of the ZOSO (Tel Aviv and South Side Communities) canvassed by the Jamaica Observer were guardedly hopeful about the measure, while those who fell outside the boundary (Spoilers and Mid Town communities) expressed disappointment, arguing that the authorities had made a critical mistake.

“Most of the residents, along with myself, are kinda glad the ZOSO is here. To some, it is just a plaster putting on a wound. We are hoping good comes out of it, because I know that ZOSOs in an area sometimes cool down for a while and it will just be in one part of the community while in the wider section you have the violence still going on. So, I was looking for it to be a wider stretch,” one resident of Tel Aviv told the Observer.

“A ‘wider stretch’ meaning Spoilers, Mid Town, Rae Town because the whole war stretch go quite far. Putting it here in Parade Garden alone, it could be a wider stretch. You are just putting on the plaster right here. Dem seh if di head nuh come off it going to pop up somewhere else,” the individual said.

According to the resident, the ZOSO, while promising much, is late.

“It should have been here long time; probably if it was, so many people wouldn’t have lost their lives, it wouldn’t have reached so far. Then what I am going to say, don’t feel any way but it is the truth, probably if the political representative (Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament Donovan Williams) had stepped up to the plate, it would have been stopped long time before it escalated so far where so many innocent people lost their lives,” the resident added.

In the meantime, the Observer was told that while police and soldiers took up their positions the atmosphere in the war-torn community on Sunday was still strained.

“People are out normal, but it is tense, the place just tense same way; just like war going on same way. Some are asking questions about how long they would be here; is it a curfew? They (security forces) explained quite well,” the Observer was told.

One resident in South Side, while commending the move, recommended that the security forces bond with residents to overcome the trust barriers, noting that individuals had information they wished to pass on but had been burned in the past.

“Police presence alone is not going to work. They have to talk to people in the community. The community carries a history that the police alone won’t know about. The people know, they need to talk to them. They are ready, they are willing to talk, the thing about it now is the trust, with the Jamaica Constabulary and the Jamaica Defence Force. People have tried before (gone to the police with information) and by time they talk they get threatened by the same people they went to them to talk about,” the resident said.

“There is a lot of people willing to help, but the trust is not there, that’s why the tension is there because the people still don’t trust the police, they prefer to see the soldiers than police. I would love to see the change,” the resident added.

Such was the havoc wreaked by the criminals that the blanket of fear remained despite the presence of police and soldiers on the ground, the Observer was told.

“The place is still tense. Whether you have a million police and soldier here, the place is still tense, people still feel threatened. They know the history of the place — that a man will see a man later and still shoot them. That’s why I said they need to do a survey of each lane, have a bond with the community. They need to lock down the place and move from lane to lane. It can work,” the resident said.

For one resident of Spoilers, who lost a relative in the ongoing war, the request to speak to the Observer was too painful.

“I welcome the ZOSO but it can’t bring my [relative] back,” the individual said in a voice thick with unshed tears before handing the phone to a relative.

“I welcome the ZOSO as well but it is bitter-sweet. It can’t bring my [relative] back,” the family member stated.

One resident of Mid Town expressed anger that that space had not been included.

“Something should be done in that side because quite a lot of killings have taken place up here. Whatever you want to call it we just need some presence, whether ZOSO or state of emergency. Even without the killings that have been taking place, the gunshots were firing non-stop,” the Observer was told. Noting that the Christmas Day and Boxing Day celebrations were marred by murders, the individual said residents stunned into silence have been using their WhatsApp statuses to voice their pain.

“If I think about it and I don’t think about God, I will probably go crazy. There is no way you can have so much shooting and killings taking place in a small community, it is crazy, it has been crazy,” the resident said, adding, “I welcome the police; I rather hear the police gun fire than another gun fire anywhere”.

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