Patria-Kaye Aarons | Wheel and come again with ZOSO!
I gave it a chance. An entire seven months without throwing cold water on it. I wanted it to work. I still desperately want it to work.
But I must be honest: The zones of special operations (ZOSOs), for me, is still just so-so. We've dished out millions of dollars and dedicated thousands of man-hours in the hope of securing safe communities. And it just isn't bearing fruit. Certainly not commensurate with the effort and resources being expended.
Two ZOSOs and two states of emergency later and I can't say I feel that Jamaica is truly any safer. What we were promised still hasn't been achieved. We were told that the ZOSOs were designed to dismantle the gangs and arrest the crime producers. If the ZOSOs were successful, they would rid the ZONES of illegal guns and restore public safety. Still waiting.
Crime continues in alarming levels in communities virtually next door to where the police and soldiers haunt in the hundreds. Criminal nuh fraid.
Over the past two years, the Police High Command has told us there are anywhere between 250 and 300 gangs across the country. I'm assuming no fewer than 10 people can credibly be called a 'gang', and I also assume each gang member has at least one gun. So by that maths, anywhere upwards of 2,500 gang members are armed criminals waiting to be caught, arrested, charged and convicted. Still waiting.
The reality is, the wrongdoers are simply lying low. Boots on the ground are cramping their criminal style. However, rest assured, they are still a very real and present danger - simply in hiding. Waiting for the opportune time to resume their nine-to-five (or whatever hours criminals keep).
ZOSO/state of emergency, call them whatever you will, the effects are short-lived. Recent news headlines announced 715 from St Catherine rounded up and processed. Yet, only 29 were still in custody and none of them charged. What's the point? I truly can't at this point call ZOSO anything close to a success. Collectively, about 13 illegal guns have been recovered from both Montego Bay and Denham Town, but no one has been arrested under the anti-gang legislation. Not one.
I don't know that the security forces actually know who they are looking for. The JCF, on its Facebook page on March 11, named 21 wanted men who were either arrested and charged, surrendered, or fatally shot since January 2017. Islandwide, not just in the ZOSOs. Only seven of the 21 fell in the 'arrested and charged' category, three had turned themselves in, and the majority (11) had been shot under various circumstances. This 21 is a drop in the bucket. Scour social media and the web pages of the JCF and you'll be hard-pressed to find a current, updated wanted persons list.
JCF, if you really know who the heads of these 250-300 gangs are, tell what YOU know. If case files are ready and all you need is a person in hiding to make an arrest, call names. Help us to help you find the criminals you are looking for by being specific. And if you don't know who you are looking for, ZOSO funds would be better spent on sharpening the JCF investigative skill set. ZOSO needs to wheel and come again.
In the same breath that I declare I have no faith in ZOSO, I'm giving a rousing round of applause for Jamaica Eye.
That I have every confidence will work. Every single camera in my control will be connected to that national security- surveillance system. I'm completely open to us trying new ideas to curb crime. I accept that not all will produce the desired results, but I'm heartened that we are making an effort.
- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet @findpatria.