On Friday, September 1, 2017, in a press conference at Jamaica House, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the nation’s first Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO): Mount Salem and its environs. The St James communities will remain a ZOSO for the next 60 days, which means that the operation will finish at the end of October.
The prime minister said the declaring of the zone is one tool in a suite of responses being developed by the security forces to address the nation’s burgeoning crime rate. He explained that there are many other communities like Mount Salem, but the decision was taken to start in Mt Salem based on several factors:
- recent historical data of crime rise in the community: 40 murders in 2014; 70 in 2015; 85 in 2016, and 54 so far in 2017
- existence of 12 gangs in the area
- intelligence reports of activities taking place in the community
Here are some other points raised in the press conference:
- More zones will be declared “in short order”
- The officers in the ZOSO will have name badges, visibly displayed
- At end of 60 days, factors that will be used to judge whether this operation was a success include: the reduction in murders, return of public order, and assessment that community has been engaged, and is at a point where
- If at the end of the 60 days, the targets are not met, the law provides a measure that allows government to go to parliament, debate the issue, and decide whether or not to extend the ZOSO time period.
- There will be checkpoints and monitoring of movement in and out.
- While there are no restrictions on the movement of press, there will be a media centre set up, and press personnel are encouraged to contact that media centre for support. Why? To avoid a situation where the security forces have an operation planned, and is unaware that a member of the press is in the area, and injury results.
- All Jamaicans are being urged to act with a sense of responsibility.
See the Gleaner’s coverage of the story: