PNP Councillor for the Mt Salem Division in St James, Kerry Thomas believes the zone of special operation (ZOSO) established in his division three-and-a-half years ago, has lost its effectiveness in curbing crime.
“At this stage the zone is starting to reach a place of diminishing returns, in other words, the policing that is taking place, I think has become significantly complacent with the residents and they are not having the effects of what we had anticipated, what we had hoped for and what we had expected from the Zone of Special Operation in Mt. Salem,” says Cllr Thomas.
However, his JLP counterparts in the St. James Municipal Corporation strongly oppose his position, with one branding him ungrateful.
Cllr Thomas was “like a lamb to the slaughter” as he earned the ire of the JLP councilors when he expressed concern with the level of crime generally in St. James and in particular within his division.
“A section of my division which has ZOSO being there for three-and-a-half years, while it has done some good, I am still very concerned significantly about the fact that over the last four, five months there are about three murders within the zone, gun murders,” he bemoaned.
Stating that there was a need to look carefully at the ZOSO, he said, “I think the police need to look back at it and see how best we can curb what is happening within that zone.” He added, “The mindset has not been impacted, the mental change that we expect from a community to heal through the zone way, we have not achieved that and sometimes I get the impression that things are just a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.”
Cllr Thomas said, “I think we need to look more on the softer side of policing in the zones of special operation to try and affect some of the changes that we had anticipated at the beginning at the ZOSOs and crime in general.”
The ticking time bomb exploded with JLP councillors lighting several fuses.
Cllr Dwight Crawford said Cllr Thomas was being a little unfair in his expectation of the police’s role, arguing that the police were not trained for social intervention but were doing a relatively good job and “I think what is missing is intervention by the councillor” in his role as leader.
Picking up after an interruption, Cllr Crawford said the expectation and line of conversation was being heard all around and it was “so disheartening to hear a leader echoing that sentiment. The social intervention that is needed, the police are not trained for that.” He posited that the onus was on the councillor to lead social intervention in the community.
Cllr Thomas fired back, “I will tell Cllr Crawford he is not in the Mt Salem Division, not to speak on what he doesn’t know about what is happening in the division itself.”
Cllr David Brown took up the baton, accusing Cllr Thomas of being ungrateful as the Mt Salem community had benefited more than any other in St James to the extent that other councillors wished they had a ZOSO in their respective divisions.
Chairman, Mayor Leeroy Williams told Cllr Thomas he hoped he “was not suffering from any lapse of memory based on what I heard you just said.”
This was met with a rebuttal that, “Mr. Chairman, sometimes to stand up and face the reality and speak the truth is one of the challenges that is affecting this country.” Cllr Thomas said with three murders within the ZOSO between September 2020 and January 2021, “and with other things that are happening in the zone, don’t tell me that I should not speak about it and don’t tell me if I identify a problem in there you are going to tell me I’m ungrateful. I’m not but we have to call a spade a spade.”
Noting that “It is not what we want, it is unacceptable,” Cllr Thomas underscored, “What we want is zero murders in the zone.”
Cllr Thomas was also drawn over the coals by Cllr Senator Charles Sinclair and Cllr Mark McGann.