Jamaican parliamentarians yesterday voted to extend the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) in Mount Salem, Denham Town, Greenwich Farm and August Town, indicating that the operations have led to a reduction in crime.
The House of Representatives voted for an extension of the measures for 60 days. National Security Minister, Dr Horace Chang, said that while the ZOSOs have led to a reduction in murder, the country does not have enough security personnel or money to expand the programme to other communities.
The ZOSO legislation suspends some constitutional rights, like searching a person or their home without a warrant and imposing curfews, in certain neighborhoods in order to crack down on violent crime. The ZOSOs are also meant to include increased investment in social programming, like job training.
At each ZOSO checkpoint, drivers are also required to slow their pace and wind down their windows so soldiers can view inside the vehicle. The security personnel can also pull them over and search them or the vehicle if they see fit.
Minister Chang says Mount Salem in St James has seen 95 per cent decline in crime since it was declared Jamaica’s first ZOSO three years ago. He also stated that the ZOSO has been supported by the residents, parliament and business owners in the community. A joint select committee is also set to review the ZOSO legislation in short order.
In the meantime, South East St Ann MP, Lisa Hanna, says that while she supports the ZOSOs, it should not be done in isolation.
“I would like to see perhaps not a ZOSO, but if we really look at it as a best-practices opportunity, to go into communities and to fix them one by one. So while I support the ZOSOs, it can’t be that we’re doing it in isolation. It has to be a part of a larger program in Jamaica that heals people’s lives,” she said in yesterday’s parliament.
Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips share similar sentiments and also added that he believes the wave of criminality is “likely to get worse” given the social and economic impact of COVID-19.
“I think there is no greater threat to our social stability, and I dare say our economic well-being, than the problem of murder and criminality that we are now facing in the country,” Phillips said.