Security forces not worried about criminals fleeing zones of special operations

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Observer staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, July 15, 2017

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SENIOR Superintendent of Police (SSP) Steve McGregor says the security forces are not worried about criminals migrating from hotspots to other areas when zones of special operations are declared.

SSP McGregor, who was addressing journalists on his first day as head of the constabulary's Community Safety and Security Branch on Thursday, said it is expected that criminals will seek refuge in other communities, but that what will make these special operations different from others is that these elements will not return to their communities to regroup.

“The movement of criminals is not so much of a problem for us. It's the fact that they won't come back. That's what we used to be afraid of; they would [move] with us out, and when we are through, they come back. In this dispensation, they will not come back. The first tranche when we do the clearing and holding, the community safety teams from all the divisions will do the building process because we want to make it consistent this time around. In all the areas where we will launch this, these communities will turn out to be safe communities after,” he said.

SSP McGregor further explained that after the “purging”, these communities will benefit from active police youth clubs, consultative committees, along with police mobile and foot patrols — all of which will be supported by the social intervention agencies.

The briefing was hosted at the Office of the Police Commissioner on Hope Road, by head of the constabulary's Corporate Communications Unit Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, and civil military cooperation and media affairs officer for the Jamaica Defence Force Major Basil Jarrett.

At the same time, the former top cop for the tough St James police division made it clear that while communities will not be militarised, with the hard type of policing that is associated with special operations, people should expect to be inconvenienced.

SSP McGregor stressed the importance of forging ahead with Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO).

“Our country is a country that has been murdering 1,000 people per year on average for the past 13 years. We have been arresting over 10,000 people every year for serious crimes. We are well on our way to taking over 1,000 guns off the street for this year… we need to get closer to what is happening in our country, and for us to get closer, the special operations zones will prepare the area for the community safety and security team to come in and find out what is operating in the minds of our people, where two youngsters will be quarrelling if Messi is better than Ronaldo and one goes for a gun and kills the other… no operational output is going to stop that, but if we create a scenario where we can get closer to the people in the community in an honest, consistent and genuine way, we can influence their attitude; we might just change their behaviour,” he said.

Superintendent Lindsay explained that advisories will be issued once a ZOSO is declared, but was not definitive about the point at which this information would be made public.

“At the end of the day, it is a security operation. There will be timely reporting to the public with due regard for the operational objectives,” Major Jarrett remarked.

The Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act was reviewed, debated and passed in less than a month, notwithstanding the objections of the Opposition, which has argued that the law infringes on constitutional rights.

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