THE zones of special operations (ZOSOs), which have been established in seven communities across the island, have been extended by another 60 days.
This follows the House of Representatives’ approval of the motions to extend the ZOSOs in Mount Salem, Denham Town, Greenwich Town, August Town, Norwood, Parade Gardens, and Savanna-la-Mar which all expire on October 22.
The extension was sought in accordance with the requirements under the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act, 2017.
Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang, who piloted the motions, argued that ZOSOs “have served the people well” and that communities are being transformed and residents now have a level of optimism about their future, and the future of their children.
“The human, social, economic and infrastructural investments that are being made in these communities have renewed the hope of residents; increased their agency and restored a sense of safety and security within the space,” he said.
Chang further argued that the implementation of a targeted operational strategy has resulted in significant reductions in all major crimes in the zoned communities.
He noted that as at October 13, 2022, for the period prior to and during the declaration of the respective ZOSOs, all communities recorded reductions in all major crimes, including murder. Mount Salem was down by 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.
“The reduction of criminal activities, improved social and infrastructural conditions, and enhanced economic prospects are key measures of the continued success of the ZOSOs,” he said.
ZOSOs comprise the clear, hold and build phases which seek to remove gangs, establish police presence, and address the social and infrastructure problems in the targeted communities, respectively.
Chang noted that as work is advanced in the build phase, surveillance will be increased within these communities in order to provide an additional layer of safety and security for the residents. This he said is towards the sustained reduction of crime and violence within and around these communities.
“With respect to the operational and community building strategy, the zones continue to transition along the clear-hold-build spectrum. 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,” he said.
Chang further informed that the Mount Salem and Denham Town zones, which are the longest declared ZOSOs, established since September 2017, have collectively benefited from more than $700 million of investment (Mount Salem $300 million and Denham Town $400 million) and their work-plans remain on track.
“Greenwich Town and August Town have collectively received over $350 million (Greenwich Town $150 and August Town $200). Over the next 60 days, the respective Social Intervention Committees will continue to drive process on the ground to ensure irreversible transformation in these communities,” he said.
The national security minister noted, however, that Parade Gardens will require significant and sustained investment to address issues that have stymied the community’s growth and development for decades. “In the coming months, the committee will finalise the work-plan for Parade Gardens and confirm the required funding,” he said.
“The Social Intervention Committee in Norwood is pursuing an aggressive work-plan of interventions for the short to medium term. They are undertaking several critical initiatives that are positively impacting the lives of these residents. Of note, 30 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.
He noted that for Savanna-la-Mar, which is the most recent community to be declared in January 2022, the Social Intervention Committee along with 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.
“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.