SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Acknowledging that there are limitations to the effectiveness of states of public emergency (SOEs) and zones of special operations (ZOSOs), Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang says he is banking on adding about 1,500 new cops a year and increased reliance on tech to rein in crime. The goal is to take the force up to 14,000 members.
“The SOE had a dramatic impact in Westmoreland, but we recognise that the parish needs other tools. ZOSO was only created for a limited geographic area so we need something on a broad scale to intercept gangsters. As a short-term solution, we are looking to build the capacity of the police to reduce homicidal crime,” he said Thursday evening during a town hall meeting in the western parish where there have been three double murders reported since the start of the year.
The security minister noted that, in order to be effective, the police must have the resources needed.
“This year we should add roughly 1,200 police officers to the force for the first time in the history of the Jamaica Constabulary Force at which we should have a net gain of about 900. We are making a commitment to train more police, with the intention to train 1,500 a year... And will be making sure to do specific training in various areas such as special operations, technology, investigations, etc,” Chang said.
“We will also be looking to digitise the stations and provide cameras and the uniforms for those cameras to fit in,” he added.
Responding specifically to one Westmoreland resident's call during the meeting for more closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems to be installed in the town of Savanna-la-Mar, Chang promised to make the area a priority when it comes to increasing the number of cameras installed across the country.
He also repeated previous commitments to provide improved physical infrastructure from which members of the force serve the public.
“We are planning on a new police divisional headquarters for Westmoreland in Llandilo and then we will refurbish the current one in Savanna-la-Mar,” the minister said.
Stressing that it was of utmost importance to have functioning police headquarters, he told the gathering that new police stations will also be built in Little London and Frome.
Thursday evening's town hall meeting came on the heels of a bloody start to the year in the parish. On New Year's Day, two men were shot and killed in Cornwall Mountain. On January 4, two brothers were gunned down in Petersfield, leaving the community reeling and one of the men's partners pleading for a meeting with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and a return of the SOEs. Then, on January 12, two women were shot dead in a shop, one of them operated in Long Hill, Whitehouse.