Feature
The Mount Salem Primary and Infant School in St. James, which is slated to be refurbished under the ‘build phase’ of the Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) in the community.
Photo: Nickieta Sterling

Story Highlights

  • The Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) Social Intervention Committee is reporting that infrastructure upgrading in Mount Salem, St. James, is advanced.
  • Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Omar Sweeney, tells JIS News that 70 per cent of work under the build phase of the operation has been completed to date.
  • “The drainage system, the road improvement, the zinc fence removal [and] the solid waste infrastructure and collection are going well,” he says.

The Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) Social Intervention Committee is reporting that infrastructure upgrading in Mount Salem, St. James, is advanced.

Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Omar Sweeney, tells JIS News that 70 per cent of work under the build phase of the operation has been completed to date.

“The drainage system, the road improvement, the zinc fence removal [and] the solid waste infrastructure and collection are going well,” he says.

He notes that this year, special focus is being placed on rehabilitating the Mount Salem Primary and Infant School and upgrading of the Mount Salem Police Station.

The Mount Salem Primary and Infant School in St. James, which is slated to be refurbished under the ‘build phase’ of the Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) in the community.

The facilities, he says, are “important community assets that we have deemed are going to be necessary for the completion of our build phase”.

Mount Salem was declared the first ZOSO in September 1, 2017, in order to tackle crime in the area, and since then, the community has benefited from transformational activities is keeping with a clear, hold and build strategy.

The first task is to clear the gangs and criminal presence from the area, then hold those areas by maintaining a strong, continuous police presence to provide reassurance and security, and to prevent the gangs from returning. The third task involves multi-sectoral intervention to address critical human needs and provide basic infrastructure.

Mr. Sweeney, who is also Managing Director of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), says the ongoing social intervention strategies continue to bear fruit, with continued engagement of residents in sports and recreational programmes and academic advancement through training.

“I would say things are going good. The security reports have been positive and so we continue to be encouraged by that,” he adds.

In the meantime, at least two community groups have hailed the ZOSO in Mount Salem, stating that it has been maintaining the peace in the community and has helped to improve the aesthetics of the area.

President of the Mount Salem Community Development Committee Benevolent Society, Winsome Barnes, tells JIS News that the intervention has brought persons together, and community groups are working to effect positive changes.

She says that a number of residents have had their electricity and water regularised, while others have been afforded an opportunity to tap into business development and skills training support.

“It has opened up the community to access more assistance. We are now on the JSIF listing, so any proposal or things that (are) out there, persons from within the community groups and organisation can apply.

“We had the National Water Commission (NWC) in the community getting persons regularised. If persons follow the process, certain bills will be written off. This is good for the community, as more residents will become paid customers of the NWC. You also have the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) coming in and trying to fix the power lines,” she notes.

Ms. Barnes further tells JIS News that “we have not had any incidents [of crime] in the community during this period and that is something that we want to maintain. We have also built relationships with members of the security forces”.

For her part, Director and Founder of the community group Women of Destiny, Olivia Shaw, says the ZOSO has created a peaceful environment and residents feel more secure.

“The community has really progressed. As a born-and-bred resident, I have never experienced the community in such a peaceful and tranquil environment. No matter the time of night, there are persons present and there is no loud or boisterous (behaviour); it is just a difference,” she says.

In lauding the transformational measures instituted under the ZOSO, Ms. Shaw informed that many lives have been positively impacted.

“The social aspect of the ZOSO has really developed the community to let persons recognise that when they have such a presentable environment, even their behaviour can evolve. We got the road repairs and the fencing done, so I think it has given them a boost of confidence. We take pride in bringing persons into our environment now,” Ms. Shaw says.

She notes that residents have benefited from job and health fairs and have been provided with proper documentation, including national identification, to better enable them to seek employment.

“Persons have gotten skills training… . The projects for the infrastructural development also facilitated employment within the community,” she notes further.

The ZOSO was declared under the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act, which seeks to contain crime while safeguarding the human rights of residents and promoting community development through social intervention initiatives.

Denham Town in Kingston is the other community where a ZOSO is in place.