Denham Town slowly rebuilding with help of ZOSO
Even as they struggled to pinpoint any socio-economical changes since a zone of special operations (ZOSO) was imposed in their community in 2017, residents of Denham Town in west Kingston agree that there has been one seismic shift.
"Di only real change mi see is that the gunshots dem nah fire again. People used to fraid fi come out a dem yard but as yuh can see, everybody deh pon di road again," said Joan*, who lives on North Street that borders rival factions between Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town. She added that the ZOSO, which seeks to combine hard-booted policing with social and infrastructural improvement, has, at least, preserved the lives of many as violent crimes have dwindled in the area significantly.
There has been an increased presence of the security forces to contain the violence, as former Denham Town loyalists of convicted Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke seek to form their own gangs. "A nuff people would die if di police and soldier dem never deh yah," she said.
Another resident, who last year witnessed a murder along Dumfries Street, said although there has been some infrastructure development, pointing to a park built by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, she believes that the real impact of the ZOSO is quelling the frequent in-fighting in her area.
"Night and day yuh hear gunshot, but it could be worst mi nah lie. Even last year, mi siddung outside mi shop and see a man a get shot up," she said.
But amid the ceasefire, Denham Town still remains a mishmash of shanties and ageing structures. The paving of several roads in the area and the renovation of the park provided temporary jobs to youths in the community.
"What the youths dem want is real work weh can sustain dem. When work did a gwan on the park it provided an income for some of them yes, but mi no see nothing since. Yuh cyah expect to change and transform lives when yuh bring bits by bits to youths weh a look it," quipped a man who has resided in Denham Town for more than three decades.
Tricia Williams, a restorative officer at the Justice Centre in Denham Town, who has also served as a facilitator since 2018, said that she has seen where the ZOSO has improved relations between residents and members of the security forces.
"It is a bit difficult to say from this standpoint, but our centre is right beside the security forces [base] and I have seen them participating in community walk-throughs and they have invited us on several occasions to interact with the residents. I have observed improved relations with residents and police officers. But there needs more to be done in my estimation," she said.