Fri | Nov 15, 2019

Don’t scrap St James social programmes, Jackson pleads

Published:Saturday | November 9, 2019 | 12:22 AMHopeton Bucknor/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

The Government has been urged not to abandon ongoing social intervention in St James despite strong criticism by National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang that the programmes are not working.

Fitz Jackson, the opposition’s spokesman on national security, who toured the Freeport Police Station in Montego Bay yesterday, also called for the private sector to continue providing support in the fight against crime.

Responding to the incidence of murder in the parish, Jackson said that residents and other stakeholders had expected the state of emergency to rein in violent crime. St James has been rocked by at least 128 murders this year.

“The level of murders in St James over the past week has been much higher than previous, and this is taking place under the ongoing state of emergency and the ZOSO (zone of special operations) in Mount Salem,” the opposition spokesman said.

Expecting better results

Jackson went on to state that having given up basic rights and freedoms to facilitate the state of emergency, he is sure that they would have been expecting better results from the enhanced security measure, albeit acknowledging the there has been some reduction in murders.

“The Government has told us the measure is working, but what the data has shown us so far is that the state of emergency, by itself, is not preventing these murders from going up,” said Jackson, arguing for increased emphasis on social intervention programmes.

Chang received flak from civil-society advocates who believe that he was tone-deaf and dismissive in devaluing the positives of social programmes.

“Every single social intervention medium that can be thought of, that has been done in Jamaica, has been done in Montego Bay. Every single one has been active, and the homicide rate moved from 12 per 100,000 to 182 per 100,000, so where is the success?” asked Chang during a peace-building symposium late September.

Meanwhile, Jackson heaped praise on the police hierarchy in St James for social reforms rolled out in volatile communities like Salt Spring.

During his stop in Montego Bay, Jackson visited Hart Street and Barnett Street, as well as Farm Heights, where murders have occurred in recent weeks. He also met with the relatives of some victims.

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