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Danger zone - JCF releases correct murder figures for Mount Salem; stresses ZOSO was warranted

Published:Friday | September 8, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Security forces on the ground in Mt Salem in Montego Bay, St James, within the zone of special operations.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake (foreground) and Major General Rocky Meade walking the streets of Mount Salem, St James earlier this week.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) yesterday said that while it erred in its report on the number of murders in Mount Salem, St James, which was one of the reasons for declaring the community the country's first zone of special operations (ZOSO), intelligence reports support the need for maintaining a strong security presence in the general area to stem the tide of growing criminality.

"The area of the zone of special operations is approximately .4 kilometres square, has a population of about 3,500 residents, with a murder rate of 190 per 100,000. This is four times the national average. The data clearly shows escalating violent incidents in the zone," the JCF said in a press release.

According to the JCF, the revised figures for Mount Salem as at September 1 when the ZOSO took effect are:

- Four murders and 11 shootings in 2015

- Nine murders and 10 shootings in 2016

- Seven murders and eight shootings since January 2017


At a press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister last week Friday declaring Mount Salem as the first ZOSO, Acting Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake gave the following data:

- In 2014, there were 46 murders recorded in Mount Salem and its environs;

- 70 in 2015;

- 85 in 2016;

- 54 so far this year - 16 of which have been committed in the Crawford Street community alone.




In the statement yesterday, the Police High Command explained that the figures in the original report focused on violence in the police district, which includes the declared area along with other communities.

"It should also be clarified that during the presentation of the data, murders and shootings were conflated to give a violent-incident index, however, this was inadvertently presented as murders alone," the release said.

"The JCF acknowledges that residents and communities should not be unfairly stigmatised and, therefore, supports the residents' thrust to have the data clarified."

According to the JCF, the violence situation in the police area is as follows:

- For 2014 - 20 murders and 26 shootings

- For 2015 - 35 murders and 35 shootings

- For 2016 - 39 murders and 46 shootings

- For 2017 - 27 murders and 27 shootings (as of July 7, 2017)

These figures, the JCF noted, clearly indicate that violence within the police area is escalating, and given the interconnected nature of criminal activity and the presence of organised criminal gangs, strongly suggest the need for intervention.

The JCF further said: "We have conducted a preliminary review of our protocols, which confirms that the collection, collation, and analysis of crime data is sound. However, we have concluded that there is a need for stronger protocols around the packaging of data, that is to say, how we report and present data to the public to avoid errors and misrepresentations."




The JCF also pointed out that the formula used to calculate the risk of proliferation and projection of organised violence in an area is linked to the number of gangs involved in criminal activity affecting the area, which is 12.

The release named Unruly, Junglist, Temple, and Alliance as the main gangs based in the Mount Salem area, with eight splinter/minor criminal groups that also operate and/or are based in the declared zone. These are Katan Lane, Nation Crocs (affiliates), Green Tank (affiliates), G City (affiliates), Texas Faction, Bronx Faction, OG Gangsters, and Blake Family.

According to the JCF, gang influence extends beyond the boundaries of their geographical turf.

"The presence of gangs drives conflict and violence within the declared space and creates informal and illegal systems to capture and control the people and community," the statement said.

"The public should bear in mind that aside from internal havoc, these gangs have created an intricate criminal network, which has tentacles that stretch outward to other communities, exerting influence and spreading fear by using violence in support of their criminal enterprise."

It continued, "Having reviewed the data and the analysis thereof, the JCF stands by its recommendation to the prime minister and the National Security Council for the declaration of the zone of special operations in Mount Salem."