Fri | Aug 14, 2020

McGregor: We will flush out thugs this time - Residents, politicians welcome security initiative

Published:Thursday | July 9, 2020 | 12:35 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
A woman crosses a street as a Jamaica Defence Force patrol approaches moments after a zone of special operations was declared in August Town, St Andrew, yesterday.
A woman crosses a street as a Jamaica Defence Force patrol approaches moments after a zone of special operations was declared in August Town, St Andrew, yesterday.

The police are optimistic that the zone of special operations (ZOSO) declared in August Town, St Andrew, yesterday will solve the problem of gunmen plaguing the community once and for all.

Senior Superintendent of Police Steve McGregor, who heads operations for the Area Four police, noted that initiatives in the past to stem violence in the community had only produced short-term results. This time around, he said, the operation will drive thugs away from the area for good.

“One of the things that was missing in all of the interventions that have taken place in August Town is that a proper clearing of the criminals was not gone into and was done on top of a lot of features that needed clearance. Those interventions were probably too fast, too early. The longest was a one-year stint of no murders, and that just burst back out into what we have now. We are hoping that this time, we will get a chance to do a proper clearing and cleansing of the old sore, so to speak, and then we can put the interventions in place,” he said.

PHASES OF DISMANTLING

McGregor shared that 10 males of interest to the authorities were taken into custody just a few hours after Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared the ZOSO, which will run for an initial 60 days.

“The ZOSO has three phases. We are in the clear phase now. The clear phase means we are going to dismantle gang bases; arrest wanted people; go after the guns, arms, and ammunition. We have started this, and we will go into the hold phase after we do this,” he explained. “The residents are anticipating the build phase because that will bring work opportunities for them, and it will bring the ability to enhance their place and make it look better.”

McGregor added that the first phase of the initiative will mean an 8 p.m. curfew for residents.

“We want control of the space. ... When we reach into the hold phase, we will relax it somewhat because by then, we would be comfortable that we have a hold of the space,” he said.

“We have not encountered any challenges so far. We have not been engaged in any violent way. Our dominance might be the reason for that.”

McGregor also called on persons in neighbouring communities not to harbour any criminals who may be seeking refuge.

“It is going to make our jobs harder, but it will also put their lives in harm,” he said.

Residents told The Gleaner that the security initiative was overdue, lamenting that the violence impacts everyone.

“Gun thing affects everybody. From the police and soldiers deh yah a do dem work, everybody feel good. Now that the ZOSO is here, when we see a car a drive a come up, we nuh really affi a look and a wonder a who dat,” a resident said. “When night come, you usually affi find your little hole. We welcome them. If you lived down here, you would be glad for it, too, because sometimes we hear di bomb dem a beat.”

Papine Division Councillor Venesha Phillips and Eastern St Andrew Member of Parliament Fayval Williams also welcomed the initiative.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com