Police: ZOSOs impacting major crimes in five police divisionsThursday, July 22, 2021
NOTWITHSTANDING an uptick in murders across the island this year, the police say zones of special operations (ZOSOs) have had significant impact on major crimes in five police divisions.
Yesterday, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in charge of crime Clifford Blake reported to Parliament's Internal and External Affairs Committee that, as of yesterday, 49 more murders were recorded across the island, a seven per cent increase over the similar period of 2020.Still, he maintained that the ZOSOs have incrementally had a significant impact on crime in the areas. “Overall, Jamaica's crime situation took decades to reach here and naturally it's going to take some time to really get a hold on it. As these strategies are implemented and we have improved training, and the security forces are more resourced, we can expect to have further reduction and see enhancement of peace in the island,” he said.The senior leadership of the national security ministry, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) appeared before the committee to provide an update on the status of ZOSOs. DCP Blake stressed that the relationship between citizens and the security forces in the communities have “never been better than it currently is because of the social activities that have been established in the areas”.He pointed to Denham Town as an example, where he said a significant number of criminals are either behind bars, or, in some cases, have fled the island since the zone was enforced.
“So the displacement of these members has taken effect and we are pursuing a lot of them, and significant numbers are already in jail,” he remarked, pointing out also that St James's most wanted has been in custody for the past six months.“What it has done is create a mindset with the citizens where they now feel free to engage the security forces and speak to them and, in some instances, come forward to report cases which otherwise would not have been reported,” DCP Blake said, pointing to rape, for example, as one of the crimes which citizens would not normally feel comfortable about reporting.“From all the indicators, the confidence in the security forces, the social engagement, the information and intelligence flow are all pointing in a positive direction, and those communities and the countries are benefiting from them,” he insisted.DCP Blake also explained that while the number of crimes have dropped in the zones, there are significant increases in the number of persons charged, but this is due to the presence of more investigators in the zones, dedicated to rooting out criminal activities.The security forces report that they seized 47 firearms across the ZOSOs, the majority of them in Denham Town (26), followed by 15 in Mount Salem, which has seen the most extensions since operations began there in September 2017.Four hundred and twenty-two rounds of ammunition were also seized, while 1,069 persons were arrested and charged, and 2,944 detained and released, up to July 9.According to statistics from the national security ministry, up to July 7, the bulk of the ammunition – 314 rounds – was found in Denham Town, followed again by Mount Salem, where 82 were seized. The Kingston Western community accounted for 825 of those arrested and charged, and Mount Salem 211.Permanent secretary in the security ministry Courtney Williams said there has been an exponential reduction in category one crimes – murder shooting, rape, aggravated assault – in the zones.He pointed to a 68 per cent drop in major crimes in Mount Salem during the four-year period of the ZOSO, compared to the previous four years, from 63 recorded compared to 20. He stressed that murders alone had declined by 76 per cent. In Denham Town, major crimes have dropped overall by 41 per cent.“Even more impressive [are] the crime stats in August Town which [have] seen a 73 per cent reduction [with] murders just about half what they used to be in the similar period prior to ZOSO,” Williams stated.
He noted that no major crimes have been reported in Norwood since operations were set up there over the past month. At the same time, DCP Blake advised that critical analysis is now being done to determine whether the Mount Salem ZOSO is ready to be decommissioned.“At this point we are satisfied that Mount Salem is headed in the right direction, but it is not at that point given these indicators that we use,” he said.
Staff officer in charge of intelligence and operations at JDF headquarters Lieutenant Colonel DaCosta reinforced the point. “We are prepared to take as much time as is required to cause there to be meaningful, lasting change in the communities, that the citizens themselves can recognise and seek to build on, post our intervention”.The Law Reform Special Security and Development Measures Bill was passed in July 2017. The operations, which bear a social component, target vulnerable communities through occupation by the security forces, in three phases: clear, hold and build.ZOSOs have been declared in five communities, across four police divisions: Mount Salem and Norwood, in St James; Denham Town, Kingston Western; Greenwich, South St Andrew; and August Town, St Andrew Central. Parliament on Tuesday approved extensions to the operations, all of which would have expired between August 21 and September 11, 2021.
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