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PM says ZOSO working

Opposition leader calls for more effective response to crime

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says that the declaration of Mount Salem as the first zone of special operations (ZOSO) has been justified and has promised at least 10 more days of internal security operations in the St James community.

Fulfilling his obligation to report to Parliament on the security operations being undertaken under the new Zones of Special Operations, Special Security and Community Development Measures Act within every 14 days, Holness told the House of Representatives yesterday that the justification was based on the relevant legal criteria, intelligence, as well as strategic and operational considerations of the joint command of the security forces.

He said that, following 32 special operations conducted by the joint force in the first 10 days, five illegal firearms were recovered, two wanted men were taken into custody, and a number of “lead sheets” used in lotto scamming activities recovered.

“The next 10 days will see the continuation of internal security operations to rid the zone of illegal weapons, ammunition and contraband,” the prime minister told the House.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, in responding to the prime minister, said that, while the initiative has been “so far, so good”, the country needed a more effective response to crime.

Holness's report was based on the first 12 days of the operation being carried out jointly by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) in the less than half a kilometre square Mount Salem district of St James with a population of 3,500 but a murder rate of 190 per 100,000, which is four times the national average.

He said, however, that although the measures being enforced by the joint forces have taken primacy at this stage, social intervention has also commenced within the zone.

He noted that the joint forces have engaged the Mount Salem Community Development Council and the Social Development Commission to discuss the existing community and development plan. This plan involves both infrastructural development and capacity building and focused on parenting and after-school programmes.

The prime minister said that the success, so far, of the initiative shows that “Jamaica and Jamaicans and our institutions have the capacity to pursue what is right, without doing what is wrong.”

“And, if nothing else, this is proof of a concept that we can fight crime and fight the criminals without killing innocent Jamaicans,” he added.

However, Dr Phillips noted that despite the operation haul of “five guns and two arrests in 10 days”, 54 murders have occurred at the same time across the island.

He insisted that since the declaration of the ZOSO, the daily national rate has increased.

“That is to say that we had been going nationally at about 4.2 murders per day…and in the period since the zone, the national average has been about 5.5 murders per day,” Phillips noted.

He said that the Opposition had never opposed the concept of the ZOSO legislation, but was concerned about the effect on citizens' rights.

“So far, so good. We commend the security forces for all they have done. We have never opposed the concept of the legislation. Contrary to what was being said, we were concerned, and we make no apology for trying to ensure the protection of the rights of the Jamaican people, and that's why we brought our amendments and put our report in,” Phillips stated.

“But what the country is crying out for is a more effective response to the overall problem that we have,” he added.