Gov’t lacks human, financial capacity to have more ZOSOs, says Chang

THE more than 21 communities identified by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) as vulnerable and volatile communities could meet the criteria for designation as zones of special operations (ZOSO), said Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang.

However, Dr Chang told the House of Representatives Tuesday that it is not feasible for the Government to declare ZOSOs in all of these communities at this time, given the extensive human, financial, and institutional capacity that is required.

But, even so, he said that the policy and practice of the Government has never been “to neglect its most vulnerable”, he insisted.

Dr Chang was speaking in the House of Representatives which extend the lives of the four ZOSOs for another 60 days, each.

“As I had outlined in my contribution to this year’s sectoral debate, the Government has issued a policy directive to reposition and strengthen social investments, in order to ensure meaningful, long-term impact on the lives of the people of the identified communities,” he stated.

He added that this approach is based on the comprehensive, all-of-government structure for social investment, under Plan Secure Jamaica (PSJ). This is a programme to prioritise three critical areas for the medium term, namely, the expansion, reorganisation and increased capacity of the Jamaica Constabulary Force(JCF); the modernisation of the legislative framework; and redirect and mainstream social intervention.

Dr Chang said that through an institutionalised, evidence-based model of social investment, guided by relevant empirical data, clearly defined and measureable outcomes, and a strong monitoring, evaluation and learning framework, social investment for social transformation was now an all-of-government priority.

However, Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding, and his fellow Opposition MP for St Andrew South Western Angela Brown Burke, while welcoming the benefits from the presence of the ZOSOs, with their “clear, hold and build” policy, felt that more can be done to increase the benefits to their constituencies, which are among the most volatile in the Corporate Area.

Statistics made available by the Jamaica Constabulary Force up to June 12, showed that while murder has only increased by about one per cent since January over the same period in 2020, major increases in murders in the constituencies represented by them are still very significant.

Despite hosting the most recent ZOSO in Greenwich Town, which is in her St Andrew South Western, murders increased in the St Andrew South Police Division from 78 last year to 84, since January. Golding’s St Andrew South, which is in the Kingston Western Division, had an increase from 47 to 52 with an upsurge since April.

However, St James which has consistently had in excess of 100 murders per annum since 2006, leaped close to 60 per cent from 48 to 77 murders since the start of 2021.

Golding noted that six women had been killed in recent turf wars his constituency, including two who were murdered on the same street since last Monday.

But he felt that the area to watch was central Kingston where murders moved from 24 last year to 34 this year, and where the violence has been spilling over into other communities, triggering strong demands, especially from the women, for a ZOSO.

“Something more needs to be done to get these hot spots under control, as quickly as possible, when there are these flare-ups,” he said.

Chang said that his ministry has taken note of the areas they had identified, and that the police high command was looking at some specific actions in a number of areas.

The four ZOSOs are: Denham Town, August Town and Greenwich Town in Kingston and St Andrew; and Mount Salem in St James.


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