'We are hurting'
Norwood businessmen say ZOSO barricades negatively impacting businessThursday, September 23, 2021
BY HORACE HINES
MONTEGO BAY, St James- Business operators in sections of the inner-city community of Norwood, St James, are complaining bitterly over what they say is the steep decline in business since the declaration of the zone of special operation (ZOSO) in June, due to barricades mounted by the security forces at the entrance to several streets leading off the main road, which limits vehicular access in their area.
The business operators, who were quick to underscore that they welcome the ZOSO, however, rued that members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), who man the barriers mounted at the mouth of the streets leading off the main road, do not allow delivery vehicles to pass through into their section of the community, known as Block B.
The irate entrepreneurs are seeking the intervention of the authorities to lobby the security forces on their behalf in a bid to allow vehicles delivering supplies to enter the Block B section of the community.
According to the businessmen, the delivery men have become frustrated because they currently have to use alternative routes which involve “the long trek over a steep hill that leads to a rough road that takes them around to the business establishments to deliver goods.”
Some of the delivery men, they say, have withdrawn their service out of frustration.
“Since the ZOSO business has been very bad because the people who deliver goods cannot come in to deliver goods because they are turned back at the barrier. And, they (some goods truck drivers) refuse to take the time to go all the way up to come back here,” bemoaned Leslie Riggan, a prominent grocery shop operator.
“So people come and they want (cooking) gas to buy… they would normally come and buy their gas and go out, now they are not allowed (to drive) in. And they refuse to park out there (on the main road) and take the gas out there…things like those are hurting us. It is very difficult,” he stressed.
Another businessman chimed in: “Whenever the trucks come to deliver bread they are not allowed in. It hurtful to see them carrying the bread on trolleys to the business places. That is not right.”
When contacted, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, who is also the Member of Parliament for St James North Western, committed to take the concerns of the business operators to the Norwood ZOSO ground commanders.
“That's not a part of it. Delivery men are supposed to pass through. I will talk to Senior Superintendent (Vernon) Ellis and Colonel (Alicia) Henry because they can deal with that,” assured Dr Chang.
Some tradesmen have also registered their anger over losing business on account of vehicular traffic not being allowed to pass the barriers posted at the front of the streets on Block B of the community.
“You know the amount of customers me lose because of the barrier right here so...?” an auto mechanic rued.
A furniture-maker echoed similar sentiments.
“If you [are] coming from [Montego] Bay and you come up here (Norwood), why you have to drive go all the way up Ironshore and come back here. I bought a load of board in Westmoreland and the truck man came ahead of me and he could not drop off the material at my place because he was not allowed through the barrier and he does not know the long route to go around and come back here,” he stated.
“That is just causing a loss of time, money and customers.”
Residents, who noted that there is a checkpoint at the end of the long route into the sections of the community that have barriers, suggested that motorists could be processed at each barrier by members of security forces, as they claim is being done in Mount Salem, also in St James, where the first ZOSO was declared since September 2017.
“It makes no sense having to travel so far and waste so much time to drive through the rough road to our premises when the soldiers could check every vehicle at each barrier,” reasoned one resident.
The residents are allowed movement through the barriers, but they pointed out that it is very burdensome to carry their loads home after they are let off by some motorists, who at times, refrain from taking the long route into their section of the community.
“Even if it is raining, taxis have to let off passengers as no vehicle can't come through. We don't have any problem with them (security forces) being here, but they have to organise that part good. Because that part we have problem,” contended a female resident.
In June, Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared a fifth zone of special operation (ZOSO) in Norwood, St James, after 15 murders and 14 shootings were reported in the community since the start of the year.
At that time, he said since 2019, there were 66 murders in Norwood where six known gangs operate, with their reach extending to the entire parish.
The prime minister added that an analysis of the situation in Norwood shows that the community continues to be plagued by “increased gang-related violence and criminal activities”.
He pointed out that Norwood is a community of just one square kilometre with roughly about 11,800 residents, of which approximately 1,600 are males between the ages of 14 and 29 years.
Holness explained that the community has emerged in an unplanned way and has issues such as a lack of water. He said the housing structures are generally of good stock and residents are mostly employed in the tourism industry.
Yesterday, Dr Chang, who is also the deputy prime minister, noted that the social intervention phase of the Norwood ZOSO is to be rolled out soon. He added that back-to- school assistance has already been provided to children in the community.
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