Mark Wignall | Murders trending down, hope is up
At the very beginning of the launch of the zones of special operations (ZOSO) and states of emergency in troubled, crime-riddled, inner-city communities, one basic understanding was that although the country needed a long-term fix, an immediate brake had to be pressed on the runaway murder rate.
The latest numbers coming out of the Jamaica Constabulary Force shows that in comparison to where we were at the same time last year, murders are down by 22 per cent. That translates to 271 fewer people murdered than in 2017. With the gun featuring in 79 per cent of murders, whatever plans the security chiefs had in classifying these operations as temporary until a more comprehensive crime plan was drafted must now be scuttled.
What works, works, and even though People's National Party senator, Damion Crawford, may have been playing politics by claiming that the ZOSOs and the limited states of emergency are the government's only crime plans, in the absence of anything else that we can get a glimpse of on the horizon, I am certain that the Jamaica Labour Party administration will gladly accept a 22 per cent dip in the murder rate as its initial, its main plan and, for now, its only plan.
Couple those numbers with a huge boost in consumer confidence and I am certain that the government will continue to extend these security operations as long as the murder numbers keep trending down and consumer confidence keeps on the upswing.
Certainly, it would have made little sense to keep these operations in place had the murder rate remained the same. But therein lies the trap. Surely, the commissioner of police, the head of the army, the security minister and the prime minister must all be thinking if a 22 per cent dip is possible, how about 44 per cent and 50 per cent reduction. And if the trend moves in that direction, the ZOSOs and limited states of emergency may lose their temporary status and show significant longevity.
It is typical that in, say, troubled areas like Hundred Lane and Park Lane, which tend to open gunfire on each other at times, the police intervenes and maintains a presence while social workers operate behind the scenes in an effort to relax whatever bad blood is brewing. The idea is, as long as a police presence is there, there is a sort of detente and people will eventually start to walk across hostile borders and rediscover themselves and their community spirit.
Then there is a gradual withdrawal of the security forces with the hope being that feuding gunmen will relax their violence and both communities will return to normality. That is the theory anyway.
At this stage, there is no senior police officer with the confidence enough to advise his higher ups than it is now safe to end the security operations in St James, St Catherine North and in sections of downtown Kingston. Another great factor operating is that many of the younger residents who are more prone to criminal involvement may discover that the peace unearthed during the security operations is much more desirable that warring gangs, gunfire at nights and bodies piling up. The sheer force of community empowerment may be the driver that propels these communities to a more peaceful coexistence when these operations come to an end some time after 2020.
All human beings desire their freedoms and security, especially if those factors can directly contribute to betterment in their economic outcomes. Those are the active lessons that those involved in social intervention must be laying out to prepare these communities for life after the policemen and soldiers drive away.