Major Idea

Major Idea

Commissioner suggests measures in-between SOE and normal policing

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

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Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson has suggested that there may be room for the creation of a crime-fighting measure that incorporates elements of normal policing with the security component of the zones of special operations (ZOSO), which are now in effect in two communities in St James and Kingston.

He was responding yesterday to questions by the chairman of the Internal and External Affairs Committee of Parliament about the utilisation of the powers provided to the security forces under ZOSO legislation in light of the ending of the states of public emergency (SOEs).

“Whether we can devise a scheme of enhanced measures that are somewhere in-between normal and the state of emergency is something that I think should be looked at, because we are talking about situations that we see coming now, situations where we require enhanced measures but you don’t necessarily want to declare a state of emergency,” he asserted.

He said that while normal policing remains in place, the issue is that criminals are able to interact freely in the communities along with law-abiding residents. “That is what has created a huge murder rate. That is how they have been able to kill,” he said. “The point is that there is a volume of murders that you will have that your systems will not be able to process from an investigative perspective, from a justice perspective. When you have upwards of 1,000 murders it’s too much for that system to process in a year,” he stated.

“The zones of special operations legislation is largely designed to take a specific community from both high crime and violence, but also a lot of social deficit to a situation where that community can operate normally with normal structures and leadership and so forth,” General Anderson said.

“One of the features under a ZOSO is that you’re securing a community that was largely under the control of some criminal organisation or gang, and getting the gang out of the community, then you hold it to ensure that they don’t come back… it’s really a community transformation legislation,” he added.

The commissioner and his team, along with representatives from the Jamaica Defence Force, appeared at yesterday’s sitting of the committee to respond to questions related to concerns raised by Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry in her report on activities under the SOE in St James.

Meanwhile, General Anderson said that just over 30 people who were detained under the SOE in St Catherine North, which ended last Wednesday, have been released.

“What we did was, on the days coming up, we were releasing persons bit by bit; the persons we felt were the worst we kept until the last,” he said. He agreed that the release of the detainees was largely due to the ending of the SOE.

General Anderson said pursuing these cases outside of the SOE would be highly dependent on how quickly evidence can be gathered. “To the extent that you pursue cases against them really depends on our ability to get evidence on those particular people. (In) a lot of the things that are attributable to some of them, all of the witnesses are dead, so we will have to see if we can use forensics or some other means of tying them to it,” he told the committee.

The police commissioner noted that some of the key individuals who are associated with violence are already in police custody outside of a state of emergency.

Twenty-three people remain in custody under the St James SOE, which will end on January 31.

Commissioner Anderson stressed that the level of fear in St James is particularly heightened perhaps because of the sustained levels of violence which those communities have endured.

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