MP, councillor insist Clarendon needs ZOSO - Chang says such security intervention not on the cards
Despite a flare-up of shootings and firebombing attacks in some Clarendon communities recently, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has said that the Government will not yield to calls to establish a zone of special operations (ZOSO) in the parish any time soon.
Acknowledging that the country’s murder rate was the most challenging and damaging aspect of the crime situation, Chang told Gleaner editors and reporters on Tuesday that a ZOSO for the central Jamaica parish “is not one that is being looked at immediately”.
Up to February 24, Clarendon had recorded 19 murders since the start of the year, a 19 per cent increase on the 16 recorded over the corresponding period in 2020. Shootings were also up 67 per cent, with 15 incidents since January as opposed to nine for the comparative period last year. Robberies were also up by one incident – 13 in 2020 compared to 14 in 2021. Break-ins, however, have declined this year by 76 per cent, while rapes in the parish also fell by 78 per cent.
Chang noted that the southern part of Clarendon was one of the most challenging areas to police and accounts for several contraband and drugs-for-guns-related crimes.
He attributed the majority of the recent firebombing of at least five houses to family disputes, noting that the situation underscored the need for increased police presence in the area.
“The activity of the police there is high and we will continue to maintain a high level of activity there. When you get that kind of family squabble, the only thing that can prevent them going into that firebombing perpetuation is having more numbers on the ground, so we’ve had to do some redeployment in Clarendon, which seems to be working,” he noted.
Clarendon South Western Member of Parliament (MP) Lothan Cousins remains adamant, however, that a ZOSO could help to curtail criminal activity in the parish, theorising that unemployment is a factor driving crime in the constituency.
“There has been a recent uptick, and the primary contributing factor, to my mind, is the lack of employment and the lack of opportunities, and all of this came about as a result of the downturn in the sugar industry and the fact that there is no industry in the area that has been introduced to replace the sugar industry,” Cousins said. “The reality is that most of the persons who would have found employment in that industry no longer have that opportunity available, so they have idle hands.”
The first-term MP asserted the social-intervention component of the ZOSO could ameliorate some social ills in the communities.
“The ZOSO has a social-intervention component, which deals with skills training and improvement of infrastructure, and I believe that would be very critical in terms of us addressing the long-term issues which are the root causes of crime,” Cousins told The Gleaner.
Similar sentiments were shared by York Town division Councillor Uphell Purcell.
“I will support ZOSO to curb crime, yes, but to also bring community development and unify communities,” said Purcell.
The parish was jolted on Tuesday following the latest double murder as two men were killed in Portland Cottage in the parish. It came days after another double homicide in Race Track last Friday night, the second such in that community since the start of the year.