The Jamaica government says it will call out the national reserves to enhance security in the coming months, as well as review the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures), Act in an effort to make it more functional and deployable.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, addressing the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a new J$45-million police station in Mount Salem, St James, on the north-west end of the island on Friday, said that the decision to call out the Jamaica National Reserve was taken during a National Security Council meeting on Thursday.
“We have decided that in order to support the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force) in their efforts for a surge, that we will make a full call out of the National Reserve to augment the force presence that we have in communities all across Jamaica,” he said.
The Jamaica National Reserve is a multi-domain focused reserve force formation that has been expanded to include a headquarters element in command of four units – the Third, Sixth and Ninth Battalions the Jamaica Regiment in addition to the Support Battalion”.
In his address, Holness said more dynamic operations will be conducted across Jamaica.
“Even though this will be a muted Christmas season, in terms of the level of celebrations at Christmas, certainly we are still expecting that there will be significant commercial activity over and beyond what happened for the rest of the year, and so we are going to ensure that space in which commercial activity takes place that those spaces are also safe.
“We are also noticing an increase in traffic on the roads and with that comes the usual issues of traffic management and you know the usual indiscipline that we have to address, and so that will also have our attention,” Prime Minister Holness added.
Holness told the ceremony that the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act is to be reviewed by Parliament.
He said the measure, which is aimed at curbing crime through security force occupation of vulnerable communities and preserving human rights during the period of occupation, is to undergo a study that will hopefully result in it becoming a model for other countries.
“We’re going to do a study, a technical and academic study, on how the strategy of the zones of special operation have worked, and indeed to have it become a template that can be used not just in Jamaica but other countries that face the same social issues.
“So, we’re looking to have a professor from The University of the West Indies take a very serious study of how it has worked over these past three years. With the support of the European Union, plus the budgetary support of the Government of Jamaica, we will look to expand the number of communities that are under the zone of special operations,” added Holness.
In addition to Mount Salem, ZOSOs have been declared in Denham Town in western Kingston, Greenwich Town in southwestern St Andrew and August Town, in eastern St Andrew.
Meanwhile, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang said the renovation of the police station is also one of the initiatives under the ZOSO.
“At the onset of the ZOSOs, the government articulated that the intention was to execute a hold and build operation. This is where the security forces will go into communities to disrupt criminal activities and eradicate gangs. Once a certain level of peace is maintained, we begin the process of community development through the upgrading of infrastructure, health, education and policing,” Chang told the ceremony.
He said that despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government is committed to investing in the safety and security of Jamaicans.