THE EDITOR, Madam:
With the allowance of the zones of special operations (ZOSO) for security forces to implement curfews, cordons and search of persons, premises and vehicles without warrant, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) notes with concern that several communities across the island have had a ZOSO declared from 2017 with several extensions since and no end in sight or seeming sustained impact in the communities.
While the Government has made overly broad and abstract statements that ZOSO has reduced crime and gangs within these communities – despite the overall increase in murders – there is no specific information on the indicators of this success. For example, of the 389 gangs operating in the country, as quoted by the minister of national security, how many of them have been fully dismantled? Of the number dismantled, what is the causal relationship with the ZOSO compared to other crime-fighting measures? If of the 389, 83 per cent or 323 were considered first-generation gangs tied to marijuana smoking, illegal firearms and other offences among at-risk youths, what are the targeted social interventions among in and out of school youths to reduce possible future involvement in more serious crimes?
It is noteworthy to indicate that within the ZOSO Act, social interventions are strongly outlined as a critical success factor where 3(d) of the act notes that the ZOSO, in part, is to “promote social and economic development in a zone through the efforts of various government agencies and civil society”.
With these critical elements in mind, several stakeholders have held steadfast in the belief that the ZOSO is some short-term panacea to crime-fighting. Dare we say, however, that without these interventions as promised being effectively implemented, whatever short-term success is reaped from the ZOSO will certainly not be sustained and the country will, yet again, be in a perpetual cycle of bloodletting.
JFJ therefore asks several questions in this regard. What social interventions have been undertaken? In addition to its monetary value, how many persons have received conditional cash transfer benefits? Are these cash transfer benefits within existing government-sponsored initiatives or was there an increase dedicated specifically to the ZOSO? How many at-risk youths have been trained in various skills training? What are the employment outcomes of these youngsters?
Given the high levels of our youngsters being recruited in crime, from petty theft to lotto scamming to more violent crimes, what synergies exist with the justice ministry’s restorative justice programme to have violence prevention and reduction interventions within communities and schools?
We note the prime minister’s statement that a framework is in place by the Crime Monitoring Oversight Committee as announced recently at a public presentation of the National Commission on Violence Prevention.
However, unless and until the public sees the results of closely monitored comprehensive interventions, confidence levels will remain low, and we will not achieve the sustained reduction in crime.
JAMAICANS FOR JUSTICE