When will the politicians understand? ZOSOs need the people behind them!Thursday, June 10, 2021
The contrasting scenes last week in Mount Salem, St James, and Central Kingston, both centred on the zones of special operations (ZOSO), have an enormous lesson for our politicians — who simply refuse to get it.
Led by the People's National Party (PNP) councillor for the area, Mr Kerry Thomas, a group of residents of Mount Salem, near Montego Bay, are complaining that the three-year-old ZOSO “has become significantly complacent” as crime rages.
On the other side of the island, at the same time, a group of residents, led by their PNP caretaker, Mrs Imani Duncan-Price, and the Rae Town councillor Ms Jennifer Newman are begging for a ZOSO to help combat crime in the area.
Mount Salem is a perfect example of why it is foolhardy to believe, as some of our politicians seem to think, that it will be sufficient to introduce a programme and leave it to work on its own.
We in this space have been big cheerleaders for the ZOSO as an essential tool in the arsenal of ideas and programmes needed to fight crime, especially murders. But we have been persistent in saying that no crime programme can make it without mobilisation of the people behind it.
Mount Salem's Mr Thomas said he was concerned about the level of crime within St James, and his division in particular, despite the ZOSO in operation, arguing that: “I do think the zone is starting to reach a place of diminishing returns.”
Said Councillor Thomas: In other words, the policing that is taking place, I think, has become significantly complacent with the residents and they are not having the effects of what we had anticipated, what we had hoped for, and what we are expecting from the zone of special operations in Mount Salem.”
It is instructive that, in scolding his colleague, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor for the Spring Garden Division, Mr Dwight Crawford, believed that it was unfair to single out the police and made the point that the desired social intervention meant all councillors had a role to play.
In Central Kingston, Ms Newman maintains that the communities were weary of the endless bloodletting, noting: “Having lost so many lives in the last couple of months, we know that the police have been working the best they can with limited resources.”
It's clearly not just about ZOSO.
The Mount Salem ZOSO, for its part, has brought a raft of social interventions in the area, such as the formation of parenting support groups, neighbourhood watches, sports programmes, skills training, the refurbishing of the Mount Salem Primary School, the rehabilitation of the community centre, construction of a police station, as well as a massive zinc-fence removal programme.
So one cannot seriously argue that it was no use. Neither is the rise in crime in both areas to be blamed on the police per se. The real problem, we believe, is that, for the ZOSO to work and sustain itself, the communities have to own it and keep it.
Numerous programmes have been introduced and huge amounts of resources spent over many administrations to fight crime, to little avail. What we are left with is the need to unite Jamaicans as one force, supporting the programmes and the police, against crime.
We just have to learn.
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