'Why not Tivoli?'

Denham Town residents welcome ZOSO but question non-inclusion of rival community

BY RACQUEL PORTER & BALFORD HENRY

Wednesday, October 18, 2017



Denham Town residents yesterday greeted news that their community has been declared the second zone of special operation (ZOSO) with one question — “Why not Tivoli?”

The query, spawned by the fact that rival gangs from Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town have been trading bullets for some weeks now, was apparently expected by the authorities.

According to Major Basil Jarrett, the joint force — comprising police and soldiers — does not have the necessary resources to implement at ZOSO in Tivoli Gardens at this time.

“It is quite possible that a ZOSO could be declared there one day,” Jarrett, who is the joint force's head of media affairs, told the Jamaica Observer in Denham Town yesterday.

“We have to be very systematic and strategic simply because we do not have the resources to have a very wide ZOSO, and because we don't have the resources to have numerous ZOSOs at the same time. It has a lot to do with resources, it has a lot to do with logistics, and it also has a lot to do with the influence of the gangs in this particular area and the net effect,” Jarrett explained.

Adding that only a section of Denham Town was affected by the operation, Jarrett said: “You don't want to bite off more than you can chew, so a limited area within Denham Town, as the one that we have identified as the ZOSO, works for us. If we try to go much wider what you will find is that we may water down our presence here and it will impact the overall effectiveness.”

Earlier, at a news conference at Jamaica House, Police Commissioner George Quallo said that a proliferation of criminal gangs perpetrating prolonged violence and rampant criminality in Denham Town led to the decision.

According to Quallo, the area met all the criteria, stemming from violence involving primarily the Young Generation gang from Tivoli, and the Denham Town Coalition, which is made up of some 12 gangs.

He said that since 2015 there has been conflict between both groups of gangsters, after the Denham Town gangs refused to submit to the “Coke family regime”, a relic of former West Kingston drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke, based in Tivoli Gardens.

Coke was arrested on drug charges and extradited to the United States in 2010. He pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges in connection with drug trafficking and assault in 2011 and in June 2012 was sentenced to 23 years in federal prison.

Yesterday, Quallo said that the current violence dates back to the shooting of Coke's brother, Leighton “Livity” Coke, in April this year.

“The ongoing gang feud has resulted in increased violence in the area, which directly affects free movement of residents and has negative impact on economic and social activities within the community and surrounding areas,” Quallo said.

Chief of Defence Staff Major General Rocky Meade noted that certain sections of the community, including the environs of Kingston Public Hospital and schools in the area had been left out of the operational area.

That point was reiterated by Major Jarrett who said, “We wanted to ensure that while we are here the communities surrounding this area will have access to these very important facilities.”

But even as residents awoke to find the joint force in the community from as early as 5:00 am and, for the most part, welcomed the authorities, they still questioned the non-inclusion of Tivoli.

“Every weh inna West Kingston dem shoulda go. Gun is here, gunmen are here. All kind of people is here,” one woman said, adding that she has no problem with the presence of the joint force.

“Mi love fi see dem. Mi no mix up, and mi no have no family who mix up,” the woman claimed.

Another resident, who asked not to be identified, said she has been anticipating the ZOSO.

“They should do Tivoli too. When anything happen dem say a Denham Town. From morning mi a say how dem no do Tivoli,” the 60-year-old woman said, as she sat outside her house on Race Course Lane. “Many night mi cyaan sleep inna mi bed because a [the sounds of] gunshot.”

Residents going about their business were seen using either drivers' licences, passports, or electoral ID cards to get through checkpoints manned by the joint force.

“Dem (joint force) a gwaan good. Dem nah disrespect nobody; nobody nah disrespect dem. Everything a go through smooth,” one resident said.

Another resident, Omar Pennycooke, said the community will benefit from the operation.

“It will make sense; the place will come under order. It will make a lot of changes,” he said while sitting on a bench on Regent Street.

Another resident, who sat in his motor vehicle with a passenger at the entrance to Regent Street waiting to be searched, said “Anything for the peace.”

Earlier at the press conference, Prime Minister Andrew Holness assured journalists that there was no concern that the joint force was being stretched, given that the first ZOSO declared in Mount Salem, St James, last month was still in operation.

“The fact that we have declared the zone would mean that we would have come to the conclusion that we are sufficiently manned to operate both zones, simultaneously, along with all other expected responsibilities,” Holness said.

“I am encouraging all residents to be positive in their interactions with the security forces. This is an opportunity for residents of the area to work with the security forces to rid the area of the criminal elements. This process can be aided by sharing information with the police or, if they choose, share it with Crime Stop,” he said.

“What we do know about a successful crime-fighting strategy is that the citizen is at the centre. Once the citizens and the security forces develop confidence and trust in each other, and there can be smooth information flow, then criminals will have no space,” Holness stated.

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