Editorial

Hoping the ZOSO works

Sunday, September 03, 2017

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As we had expected, the Government's new anti-crime initiative, the zones of special operations (ZOSO), has attracted support and opposition.

Some people in the community declared the first zone — Mount Salem in St James — have welcomed the measure, while others have raised questions, asking why that community.

On Friday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in declaring the first zone at a news conference, explained that the choice had its foundation in data showing that the community is a major crime hotspot.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake corroborated the prime minister's statement, pointing out that in 2014 there were 46 murders in Mount Salem and its environs, in 2015 the number rose to 70, in 2016 the figure was 85, and so far this year the community has recorded 54 murders.

Those are frightening statistics, even when placed against the mayhem taking place in Clarendon where, some people argue, the first zone should have been established.

It's an argument that the authorities will never win, simply because everyone in communities affected by violence need to see some immediate effort to deal with the problem.

But the initiative must start somewhere. As such, we urge all law-abiding Jamaicans to give it their full support while keeping a keen eye on the actions of the joint forces, as they should not be allowed to use this initiative to abuse people.

We are particularly encouraged by the prime minister's announcement that all weapons being used in the zone have been registered with the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine. That, we believe, will cause any member of the joint forces who is trigger-happy to think twice before acting in a reckless manner.

Representatives of both the police force and the army have told us that their members have been properly trained for this initiative and that they will observe acceptable human rights practices. We hope that they will be proven correct, because we are very clear that this strategy must work if the country is to pull itself from the quagmire of crime that has affected us for too long.

The cost of combating crime and violence is just too high. Indeed, one of the fastest-growth sectors in the economy is security. Unfortunately, the growth of expenditure on security is a cost to many other activities, including investment, health, and education.

Most likely some of the cynicism that has greeted the ZOSO is due to the fact that successive governments have manifestly failed to deal effectively with crime. Announcements of new crime-fighting plans and new police units no longer convince people that the State is fully equipped to deal with the problem.

However, as we have often argued in this space, the fight against crime is not the job of the security forces alone. Every law-abiding Jamaican should see it as their duty to ensure that no community is allowed to offer haven to criminals.

People who know about criminal activity, and who witness crimes being committed must pass on the information to the authorities. There are a number of channels available to Jamaicans to do so without compromising their safety.

At the same time, the police, in particular, need to work at erasing the trust deficit they have with citizens, because that has been playing a role in the public reluctance to give information.

Prime Minister Holness has vowed that his Administration “will establish and restore public order, citizen security, and public safety”. We hope that they succeed.

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