THE Government has identified 20 major crime-producing communities across the island and is devising strategies to quiet them.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the disclosure last Thursday during a question and answer session with the Jamaica Observer.

While declining to name the communities Holness said they were urban or urbanised areas with heavily armed gangs which are under the control of dons.

According to Holness, these communities need measures such as zones of special operations (ZOSOs) and states of public emergency (SOE) to tackle the particular element of violence that they record.

“We have communities at war with each other and at war with the State. That is a war that needs to be addressed. Young men with guns under some kind of nefarious leadership use these guns not just for economic benefits, it is not just that they are going out to rob and that’s how they live, they are using it [guns] to settle conflicts that you and I would just say, ‘Come mi buy you a beer’ and laugh and talk over,” said Holness.

He noted that the gangsters in these communities do not want the security forces to police them and they often erect barriers to keep out the police and to prevent their rivals from driving through and attacking them.

“Ninety per cent of the youths in these communities are not attached to anything. They are not in schools regularly, they are not in any training programme and they are fodder for gang warfare,” said Holness as he took a thinly veiled swipe at people who have criticised the use of the SOEs.

“The people who are writing all kinds of things in the newspapers about rights and the Government trying to get powers to abuse rights never yet wrote one line that would explain to the mother who lost her son, because of some silly gang war, what about her rights to see her son grow up.

“What about the rights of the people who live in all of these communities… to live in peace? They can’t get up in the morning in peace,” added Holness as he recounted a story of an elderly woman who has to endure men armed with illegal guns using her yard as a walkway.

“We need to keep peace in some of these communities [and] we do not have enough police and soldiers to maintain the kind of peace keeping that is necessary,” said Holness.

He pointed out that large numbers of armed youngsters in these communities use the power of the gun to solve social problems.

“We have to intervene. We have to use exceptional powers to address this epidemic that we have of crime and violence and that is how we have used the SOEs and the ZOSOs to manage certain communities and it has worked,” declared Holness.

He pointed to the reduction in crime in the St James community of Mount Salem and the Corporate Area communities of August Town, Greenwich Town, and sections of Denham Town which were declared ZOSOs.

“We have shown that if we take this approach, which is to dominate the space, control ingress and egress from the space, have high-level community engagement, and bring in parallel community development, then we can control the crime.

“But that is a manpower-intense strategy, so we are trying to figure out now the next step, how do we use technology to reduce the reliance on human resources because we need the police men and women and soldiers to put them in other areas as well,” added Holness.

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