The House of Representatives has approved a further 60-day extension of the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs) in seven areas across Jamaica.
They are Denham Town, West Kingston; Norwood and Mount Salem, St. James; Greenwich Town, Parade Gardens and August Town in St. Andrew, and Savanna-la-Mar in Westmoreland.
The Resolutions for the extensions were moved by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, during today’s (October 19) sitting of the House of Representatives.
Giving an update on the interventions being undertaken within the communities, he said all communities recorded reductions in all major crimes, including murder, as at October 13, 2022, for the period prior to, and during the declaration of the respective ZOSOs.
He noted that the reductions were Mount Salem, 59 per cent; Denham Town, 32 per cent; August Town, 47 per cent; Greenwich Town, 30 per cent; Norwood, 63 per cent; Parade Gardens, 94 per cent and Savanna-la-Mar, 90 per cent.
Dr. Chang said notwithstanding the progress made, so far, in the declared Zones, the efforts must be continued at this stage for the realisation of the desired outcomes.
“These continuous improvement activities require further focused commitment and resources for immediate and long-term gains, in order to ensure impact and sustainability,” he added.
Providing a breakdown of the expenditure associated with the Zones, Dr. Chang informed that the Mount Salem and Denham Town Zones have collectively benefited from more than $700 million of investment. These are the longest declared ZOSOs, with $300 million being spent for Mount Salem and $400 million for Denham Town. “Their workplans remain on track,” he noted.
He said the Greenwich Town and August Town Zones have collectively received more than $350 million in capital expenditure.
“Over the next 60 days, the respective Social Intervention Committees (SICs) will continue to drive the process on the ground, to ensure irreversible transformation in these communities,” he said.
Dr. Chang argued that Parade Gardens will require significant and sustained investments to address issues that have stymied the community’s growth and development for many decades.
He said in the coming months, the Social Intervention Committee will finalise the work plan for Parade Gardens and confirm the required funding.
The Minister noted that the Social Intervention Committee in Norwood is pursuing an aggressive workplan of interventions for the short to medium term. He added that they are undertaking several critical initiatives that are positively impacting the lives of the residents.
“Thirty micro enterprises received enterprise grants totalling $5.8 million in March 2022. Subsequently, an additional 20 enterprises were identified for grant assistance in September 2022. These grants will be disbursed by December 31, 2022. A total of 50 enterprise grants will be provided to Norwood residents this year,” he said.
Dr. Chang noted that for Savanna-la-Mar, which was declared in January 2022, the Social Intervention Committee and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development have partnered in formulating the development plan for the Savanna-la-Mar Zone.
“The process remains dynamic and includes identifying critical priorities and the required fiscal support,” he said.
Dr. Chang explained that the aim of the overall strategy is to ensure that when the Zone transitions to the Build Phase there will be agreed priority actions ready for implementation.
He said with respect to the operational and community building strategy, the Zones continue to transition along the ‘clear-hold-build’ spectrum.
The Minister pointed out that Mount Salem and Denham Town will continue into the build phase. Greenwich Town, August Town, Norwood, Parade Gardens and Savanna-la-Mar will continue in the hold phase for this period of extension.
Dr. Chang said the policies of the Government has been and continues to be guided by continuous review and reassessment of programmes, to ensure they remain relevant to the needs of the people.
He noted that in the coming months an in-depth assessment of the entire Zones of Special Operations programme will be undertaken.
“This will underpin future adjustments to the Zones, which may include the broadening of the boundaries in some cases as we move to the sustainable phase of the Zones currently in operation,” the Minister said.
He assured the residents of vulnerable communities that the Government is sensitive to the level of violence, informality and social decay that has taken hold in their communities over the years.
“The Zone of Special Operations is but one of the tools that we are utilising to provide increased safety and security to you and your families. As we implement Plan Secure Jamaica, the Government is unapologetic about utilising all available security measures and tools to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of the people of Jamaica,” he said.
Leader of the Opposition, Mark Golding, said the Opposition supports the use of ZOSOs, noting that “we’d like to see them deployed actually more extensively”.