Tuesday, 19 September 2017

HOT TOPIC: What major long-term benefits will ZOSO yield for Jamaica?

KEEPING THE PEACE: Commentators have described the ZOSO as "a breath of fresh air" and a strong anti-gang strategy.

MUCH ado has been made about the zones of special operations (ZOSO), being powered by the security forces, with strong reactions emanating from all quarters of society. By and large, the assessments are mixed for this military-backed anti-crime initiative that recently began in earnest in the Mount Salem division of St. James. Regular citizens are greatly concerned about certain aspects, but the reassurance has been given that, “the law ensures that the human rights of citizens are protected and that the security forces account for their actions.”

Against this backdrop, a number of public figures and social commentators have been speaking out on the effectiveness of this strategy and what we ultimately stand to gain from it, in addition to a marked reduction in the national crime statistics.

Forcing criminal elements out of their habitats, some persons feels, will make communities safer, especially in the notorious troubled hotspots across the island. “There is a major point that critics of ZOSO overlook; don’t underestimate the power of displacement,” argues columnist and talk-show host Ian Boyne. “When you push criminals and gangsters out of their comfort zones, their familiar territory and their base, [it becomes] easier [for them] to make mistakes and be caught. Displacement makes them highly vulnerable.”

From another vantage point, attorney-at-law Anthony Gifford believes ZOSO is a great start for dismantling gangs, which account for a great deal of the heinous crimes. He has a sensible and workable suggestion to make. “Gangs are generally made up of males 13-25 years old. If we are able, through a system of mentorship and assistance to develop well-rounded students, it will deprive the gang of new recruits,” he notes. 

For him, the courts system also has a role to play. “If we position a court in the communities to quickly deal with the disputes, the need to take matters into one’s hand may decline. If serious crimes are dealt with speedily and efficiently, it may function as a deterrent.” 

Meanwhile, there are those who heap praises on the security forces for a solid start via the project in Mount Salem (the first zone declared by PM Andrew Holness) that has already borne fruit. “This change is breath of fresh air that is linked to the additional training and preparation that was done before the operations began,” offers Stephen Edwards, President of the JLP’s young professional arm, G2K. “This, by itself, is a tremendous success for which the security forces should be commended.” 

While Boyne feels PM Holness should expedite the announcement of the next designated zone, Glenn Tucker says there’s no need to rush. According to Tucker, once adequate resources are made available and the officers receive the full cooperation of the citizenry, the ZOSO will be an islandwide success.

“These [zones] will be needing resources immediately – resources for infrastructure, social workers, mediators, assistance for small-business persons who have no collateral and regular consultations with the citizens who must be treated with respect,” the educator and sociologist insists. “At the centre of this initiative has to be a strong, well-resourced, dependable and community-oriented police force.”

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