Government ready to declare more ZOSOs
Moments after the Andrew Holness administration signalled that it was on the verge of rolling out its signature anti-crime measure – the zones of special operations (ZOSO) – in other communities, one opposition lawmaker pleaded for a section of his constituency to be included.
“In short order, announcements will be made about the declaration of other communities,” Holness, the prime minister, announced in the Parliament last evening.
He was speaking before lawmakers voted unanimously to approve further extensions for the ongoing ZOSOs in Mount Salem, St James, and the west Kingston community of Denham Town.
“We have reached a point where we believe that we have perfected the operations of the zones of special operations and that we are now ready to declare other communities zones of special operations,” said Holness.
With no hint about the communities to be targeted, Derrick Kellier, opposition member of parliament (MP) for St James Southern, made an urgent appeal for the Greater Cambridge area within his constituency to be included.
“Your security minister and my colleague MP from St James is aware of the devastation to the Greater Cambridge community that has carried on for far too long now,” said Kellier.
“One of the most notorious gangsters that is on the most wanted list is still not caught. Two others were taken out by the security forces, but the number one man is still around the place and his cohorts are still there,” he continued.
“It is said that there are guns everywhere and we hear them firing at nights, so we know they are there. But the truth of the matter is, Prime Minister, the area needs to have that intervention because the social decay that has taken place over the years needs to be adjusted,” Kellier pleaded.
Up to April 6, St James had recorded at least 42 murders, a nearly doubling of the 23 reported for the similiar period last year.
With budgetary funding already in place, Holness said the one hold-up to the new ZOSO declarations is the need to ensure that enough troops are available to join the cops on the initiative without depriving other communities of adequate security presence.
“The only challenge that we have now is to manage these areas and at the same time manage the requests that are being made to keep presence in areas such as St James, Westmoreland, Hanover, August Town and St Andrew,” he explained.
“We are working out the manpower allocation so that we in no way deprive any area of the presence. So that is the only issue that has kind of prevented us from declaring zones earlier,” Holness added.
Last October, the Government announced that it was laying the groundwork to roll out ZOSOs in 20 crime hotspots.
ZOSOs have been in place for 577 and 532 days, respectively, in Mount Salem and Denham Town.
Since then, Holness said no murder has been recorded in Mount Salem, while Denham has seen homicides slashed from 31 to 12.
“So it is clear, Mr Speaker, that the zone of special operations is working very effectively. There is no question about the success of the strategy,” he asserted.