The Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs) in Denham Town, West Kingston; Mount Salem, St. James; Greenwich Town and August Town in St Andrew have been extended by a further 60 days.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday (October 13) approved four Resolutions for the extensions, which were moved by National Security Minister, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang.
In his remarks, Dr. Chang said that the Mount Salem and Denham Town Zones have undergone three years of intervention since their declaration in 2017.
He noted that during that time, significant investments through Government of Jamaica and partner funding have led to the implementation of a suite of targeted interventions geared at improving the quality of life of citizens.
“The declaration of the Mount Salem community as the first Zone of Special Operations was a landmark event in the history of Jamaica. The experience has produced innumerable lessons at various levels – operational, tactical and strategic,” Dr. Chang noted.
“To the extent that the preservation of life and the restoration of the community’s confidence in legitimate State structures, were highlighted as being among those of utmost importance, the Zone should be considered as a successful endeavour. In fact, successes in these areas have been manifested by an overall lower crime rate in both communities,” he added.
In the case of Mount Salem, there has been a 95 per cent and 93 per cent reduction in murders and shootings, respectively, for the 1,134-day period (September 1, 2017 to October 8, 2020) following the implementation of the ZOSO, compared with the similar period (July 25, 2014 to August 31, 2017) prior.
In addition, the community continues to undergo meaningful transformation through the following: strengthened mechanisms and integration for service delivery by State institutions and community actors within the spaces, physical infrastructural development, businesses are operating without fear of extortion, and citizens are experiencing peace and security.
“In fact, the citizens of Mount Salem have been the real engine behind the progress within the Zone. They have been supportive of the initiative and have displayed outstanding interest and ownership of their community,” Dr. Chang said.
Regarding Denham Town, there has been a 25 per cent and 58 per cent reduction in murders and shootings, respectively, for the 1,088 days since the implementation of the ZOSO ( October 17, 2017 to October 8, 2020), as compared with the similar period before (October 25, 2014 to October 16, 2017).
“With a similar reduction experienced in all major crimes, the prospects for transformation have been encouraging. The focus in the BUILD phase is, therefore, to continue and expand on the social intervention activities, with an emphasis on livelihood development programmes, inclusive of parenting support and skills training,” Dr. Chang said, adding that this includes citizen participation in safety and security initiatives.
He further noted that careful evaluation of the supporting infrastructure and mechanisms must be undertaken to ensure that transformation in all critical areas is actually achieved.
For August Town and Greenwich Town communities, the security forces continue to maintain effective presence, and both Zones have transitioned to the HOLD phase of the strategy, which is operating concurrently with the BUILD phase which has commenced in the space.
Regarding the progress made since the declaration of both Zones of Special Operations, Dr. Chang said there have been no murders or gun crimes, and the security forces continue to report success within the controlled spaces.
Meanwhile, the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act is to be reviewed by a Joint Select Committee of Parliament.