Wed | Nov 29, 2023

Letter of the Day | Broken window: ZOSO and the Road Traffic Act

Published:Wednesday | January 25, 2023 | 12:47 AM


The ‘Broken Window’ theory, introduced by social scientists in 1982, states that “visible crimes, antisocial behaviour and civil disorder, if not penalised, encourage further crime and disorder, including serious crimes”.

The academic ‘Broken Window’ theory was vigorously trailed in New York City in the 1990s as zero-tolerance policing. Minor criminal activities that had hardly made police blotters were persistently prosecuted.

As a consequence or coincidentally in that period, New York City experienced a significant reduction in criminal activities which was attributed to its vigorous policing.

However, Civil Unions in New York rejected the claim that ‘broken window’ policing was a significant factor, pointing to its ineffectiveness as a crime-fighting strategy. They cited also that the policy impacted the most vulnerable communities and unduly affected people of colour.

The New York City ‘broken window’ policies may bear slight similarity in intent to the current administration’s implementation of zone of special operations (ZOSO). Similar is the voiced view that ZOSO is an ineffective strategy in curbing the wantonness of crime in Jamaica.

Yet, hardly any complaints emanate from citizens in community areas under special operation, particularly since the police actions are considerably more civil than in earlier times.

On the contrary, the police seem to believe their ZOSO strategies are working, despite ongoing objections influencing the administration to continue apace.

The new Road Traffic Act may well be the ‘broken window’ policy that curbs the carnage of motorcycle accidents in these western zones of Jamaica. A radio commercial advertised some of the fines to be levelled on errant bike riders.

Riding on one wheel, called ‘wheelie’, a common practice among youth riders, will attract sizeable fines. But one biker’s response, on hearing of the fines, was “Government jus’ a pressure poor people”. Like the transport operators who raked up thousands of dollars in fines, much of which is still outstanding, who feel much the same way – ‘government putting pressure on poor people’.

Will the new Road Traffic Act and its higher penalties bring order and civility on our roads? Maybe, we all hope so.