THE Parliamentary Opposition is urging the Government to shore up the necessary resources in order to deploy Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs) to other areas of the island that are being plagued by worsening violent crime.
On Tuesday, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang told the House of Representatives that there has been no incidence of criminal violence within Parade Gardens in Kingston, and Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, where ZOSOs have been declared since the start of the year.
However, he said about 25 communities across the island are in need of ZOSOs, but the extensive resources required, are not available. “Jamaica does not have the human or capital resources and competencies to carry out this type of operation in such a simultaneous manner. Given the equally critical levels of criminality in these communities we should not limit the tools that are available to the police. We must put alternative measures in place and provide the critical tools to control the violence until we build out the capacity,” he said.
But Opposition Leader Mark Golding insisted that the Government needs to find a way.
“We implore the Government to do what it takes to secure those areas of the country which need the additional boots on the ground. We do not feel that this very important security measure, which enjoys bipartisan support, should be curtailed in its use, where persons' lives are in jeopardy, on the basis that the particular model and the way it has been deployed in the past, was too expensive to be replicated in multiple areas. The imperative of protecting the society and those communities which find themselves under siege from gunmen ought to result in some flexibility in the thinking as to how this particular tool is to be devised and used,” he argued.
He said the Opposition recognises the funding constraints, and would support the provision of larger budgets to implement the social investment aspects of the ZOSO. Golding also pressed the Government to urgently bring the Firearms Bill, and the Emergency Powers Act to Parliament. “They are important and agreed tools which the country needs,” he remarked.
Dr Chang pointed out that last year 128 people were murdered in Westmoreland, a 60 per cent increase compared to 2020. The police say this was the fourth-highest number of murders among all police divisions, and mainly stemmed from violent gang conflicts.
The Government declared the island's seventh ZOSO in southern Savanna-la-Mar on January 16. It covers Street, Russia, and Dexter Street.Other ZOSOs have been established in Parade Gardens, central Kingston; Denham Town, west Kingston; Norwood and Mount Salem, St James; and August Town and Greenwich Town in St Andrew.
Under the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act, an area can be declared a ZOSO once there is rampant criminality, gang warfare, escalating violence and murder, and a threat to the rule of law.