20 ZOSOs coming... Anti-crime initiative to roll out in crime hotspots across the island
The Andrew Holness administration has announced that it is now laying the groundwork to roll out its signature anti-crime measure, the zone of special operations (ZOSO), in at least 20 crime hotspot communities.
Holness, the prime minister, said already the finance ministry is working on the budgetary allocations that will be required to sustain the measures while the security forces undertake a major recruitment drive.
"Yes, there are more zones (of special operations) coming. We have identified, so far, 20 communities, and they are dispersed all over," Holness declared in the House of Representatives yesterday.
"But because the engagements are not short-term, they have to be planned properly. We don't want to go and implement a ZOSO that is not adequately funded, where we know where we are going with it, and adequately resourced in terms of manpower."
To ensure the effectiveness of the impending ZOSOs, the prime minister said his administration is now studying the two operations that have been declared in Mount Salem, St James, and in the west Kingston community of Denham Town.
"The two zones that we have are what we would call now the test cases. We have had a year and some months to study them, to see the shortfalls (and) to see what legislative changes need to be made," Holness said.
The disclosures came as lawmakers on both sides voted to extend the state of public emergency in St James and the zone of special operations in the community of Mount Salem to January next year.
Holness, in leading the debate on the extension, revealed that there have been no murders or shooting incidents in Mount Salem since the community was declared Jamaica's first zone of special operations. He revealed, too, that murders and shootings are down across St James by 53 and 66 per cent, respectively.
32 PERSONS KILLED LAST WEEK
However, Member of Parliament for Central Manchester, Peter Bunting, citing police statistics, countered that despite the government's anti-crime initiatives, 32 persons were killed across the island last week.
"That's almost five per day," Bunting noted, prompting a swift response from the prime minister.
"Shows the gravity of the situation," Holness said.
A state of emergency is also in the St Catherine North Police Division and in several communities that fall within the St Andrew South, Kingston West and Kingston Central police divisions.
Holness acknowledged that the use of states of emergency, credited with a 21 per cent reduction in murders islandwide since the start of the year, will not be an "indefinite tool", but said he will not signal to criminals when they will end.
"We would not want to perpetuate a state of emergency, built into the minds of Jamaicans that this is an indefinite tool. That is not our position," Holness said of the crime-fighting measure.
"We know that there are some criminals who, in their decision-making cycle, will say, all right, these measures have created a more difficult environment to commit crime, so we will wait.' But we don't want them to be able to set a finite date on their waiting," he reasoned.