Parliament Approves Further Extensions for Zones of Special Operations in Jamaican Communities in Continued Crime Fight

Under the Zones of Special Operations legislation, the security forces have special powers, including to search places, vehicles or persons, with or without a warrant.

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday July 18, 2018 –
There has been yet another set of extensions in the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs) in two Jamaican communities, as authorities try to make further headway in their fight against crime in those hotspots.

The House of Representatives yesterday approved two resolutions for the extensions in Mount Salem, St James and Denham Town in West Kingston for a further 60 days.

This will be the sixth extension for the Mount Salem Zone, the first to become operational on September 1, 2017, while it will be the fifth for Denham Town. Under the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act, which was passed in Parliament last year, security forces have special powers, including to search places, vehicles or persons, with or without a warrant.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness moved the resolutions for the extensions in Parliament.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who moved the resolutions for the latest extensions, explained that Government has been making significant progress with crime reduction in some areas, noting that there are growing assurances of the permanency of peace, for which the residents of Mount Salem and Denham Town have been yearning.

“That peace is also having a positive impact on the entire country. We only need to look back at the activities of the corresponding periods of 2017, when many of these communities experienced record cases of murders and serious crimes, which created menacing conditions for too many Jamaicans,” he said.

Holness added that the Government continues to engage in and consider a number of special security measures, which he said, to a large extent, have had a positive result.

“Nevertheless, we also accept that despite the best intentions of the Government, these interventions will fail in the absence of cooperation and harmony of purpose. We must, in this House, act in unison on matters of crime reduction and public safety and guard these positive early results,” he emphasized.

The Prime Minister said following the passage of the Zones of Special Operations legislation, the Government has successfully commenced the work that was necessary to transform the Denham Town and Mount Salem communities.

He said that since that time, both ZOSOs have signalled a turning point in terms of the impact of focused special measures in these spaces.

“This is because, fundamentally, the effort has equally combined security and social intervention to achieve meaningful and sustainable change. Most importantly, the effort has received support of the residents of the communities, and they are the primary beneficiaries and, indeed, the primary stakeholders,” the Prime Minister said.

Holness noted that, to date, crime-prevention programmes and strategies continue to bring order to both communities.

“This includes changes and improvements to community infrastructure, culture and the physical environment. The approaches that we have used combine various agencies, the church…civil society, the private sector to bring to bear the combined efforts by improving these communities to bring order in the lives of the people,” he said.

The Jamaican leader further noted that the programmes in the ZOSOs have been assessed as being effective and “there is no reason to discontinue the work being done”.

He informed that there has been an overall reduction in homicides and, particularly, firearm-related incidents in the communities.

“We continue to make significant improvements in both communities… in road improvements and rehabilitation. The regularisation of utilities continues, drain cleaning and removal of solid waste – this is continuing and, in fact, we have developed a system of environmental wardens,” he said.

Other social interventions implemented include a block-making project, back-to-school support programme, school wide behaviour-modification programme, summer camps and parenting-support programmes.

The Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act gives the Prime Minister power to declare an area a ZOSO in order to tackle increased crime and volatility. This is in consultation with the National Security Council.

The Zone can only be established after the Police Commissioner and the Chief of Defence Staff make a request for such a declaration, in writing, to the Prime Minister.

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