Friday 20 September, 2019

More ZOSOs to come ‘in short order’, says Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (file photo)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (file photo)

The Government will in short order, declare Zones of Special Operation (ZOSOs) in other violence-prone communities across the country, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has stated.

The prime minister made the announcement on Tuesday in the House of Representatives as he moved two resolutions calling for the extension of the Government’s major anti-crime strategy in Mount Salem, St James and Denham Town, West Kingston.

The country’s first ZOSO was imposed in Mount Salem in September, 2017, while the second was imposed in Denham Town in West Kingston a month later, in October 2017. Both have been extended for 60 days at a time since then, and have been credited with significantly reducing crimes in the two communities.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to approve the continuation of the ZOSOs in the two communities, and the prime minister said more will be rolled out soon.

He said the Government and the security forces are now engaged in a strategy of training, using the Jamaica National Service Corp to rapidly increase the manpower of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).

“Some of those members will ultimately find their way through the recruitment process into the Jamaica Constabulary Force… This will allow for more ZOSOs to be declared,” Holness told the House.

“The only challenge that we have now would be to manage these areas, and at the same time manage the requests that are being made to keep (the security forces’) presence in the areas such as St James, Westmoreland, Hanover, August Town (in Eastern St Andrew) and South St Andrew. Those areas continue to be plagued by serious crimes, despite the best efforts of the security forces.

“We are working out the manpower allocations so that we in no way deprive any area of the presence. That is the only issue that had kind of prevented us from declaring zones earlier,” the prime minister said.

He provided statistics pointing to the success of the two ZOSOs. He noted that prior to the declaration of the Mt Salem ZOSO some 577 days ago, there were 17 murders, 29 shootings, two cases of rape and three cases of robbery. These are all ‘category one’ crimes.

“Since the declaration of the ZOSO, there have been zero murders, zero shooting, one (case of) aggravated assault, two cases of rape, one of break-in.

“So it is clear that the ZOSO is working very effectively… there is no question about the success of the strategy,” Holness emphasised.

In relation to Denham Town, where a ZOSO was declared 532 days ago, there were 31 murders, 44 shootings, two cases of aggravated assault, seven cases of rape, seven cases of robbery, and five break-ins prior to the declaration of the zone.

Since the declaration, there have been 12 murders, 10 shootings, three cases of aggravated assault, nine cases of rape, and three cases of robbery.

The prime minister said there was an early drawdown of presence (security forces) in Denham Town prior to the launch of the now discontinued state of emergency in the St Catherine North Police Division.

“That resulted in a transitioning far earlier than we should have,” Holness conceded. He said during the transition period, there were at least three murders and six shootings.

“Since then we have learnt that this is not a process you can rush or be premature (with). You have to make sure that you attain the markers for transitioning…,” said the prime minister.

He said the authorities have reached a point where they have perfected the operations of the ZOSOs, and are now ready to declare ZOSOs for other communities “in short order”.

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