Fri | Nov 17, 2017

Jaevion Nelson | ZOSO, 'tough' policing no cure-all for crime

Published:Saturday | September 9, 2017 | 12:00 AMJaevion Nelson
A man approaches a soldier on a Mount Salem street that is among several thoroughfares patrolled by the security forces.

 

The proponents of the zones of special operations would have you believe that those of us who are expressing concerns are politicking or simply not interested in tackling crime and violence.

It's unfathomable that concerns about the necessity and implementation of the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act are being misconstrued as such though it doesn't take much effort to see who is wearing orange blinkers and who is not. And let's not pretend, the sycophants in green who are tweeting and Facebooking their hearts out aren't being political as well.

That people are attempting to portray concerned citizens as pariahs and unpatriotic bleeding-heart liberals is rather reckless. But as Dionne Jackson Miller said (to me) on Twitter, earlier this week, it is a "strategy to turn [the] public against people who take a critical analytical approach" to the whole idea of a zone of special operations.

We cannot afford to be deterred. We must press on and see to the protection of human rights.

So annoyed are the people who are eager to see the State be 'tough' on crime (we know what that looks like) that they complain that the implementation of this radical and miracle-working piece of legislation has become a public-relations stunt. It's the bleeding-heart liberals and Opposition who are to blame for this, they say. They now have little hope in its success and have concluded that the law lost its potential to send criminals scurrying. They believe the prime minister became soft.

Clearly, the interventions by the 'bleeding hearts' like those at Jamaicans For Justice to improve the law and train the security forces and thereby mitigate the risks of human rights abuses are not appreciated. I'm thankful, though, that they aren't his advisers; it would be rather devastating.

I sincerely appreciate all the efforts the prime minister and his team have made to mainstream human rights in all of this and mitigate against the violation of same. Despite our feelings about this particular legislation, we must commend him.

It appears the elite consensus is that the only possible way to be tough on crime and violence is to abridge, abrogate and infringe rights.

One would believe that we would have learnt from all the failed tough measures by now. I'd like to think that being decisive and non-partisan is the kind of toughness we need at this time. In addition, where is the appreciation for capacitating prosecutors, strengthening the witness-protection programme, building more courtrooms, increasing the number of drafters, amending outdated laws, increasing the budget for the Ministry of Justice, improving community policing, and facilitating greater investments in the required social- intervention programmes which get more lip service than actual money?

We must do more to address crime and violence. Our communities are too unsafe. Notwithstanding, ZOSO, by itself, is an insufficient measure to rid the society of crime and violence.

What work is being done to encourage citizens to volunteer information about incidents perpetrated in their communities so we can apprehend known criminals? What work is being done to build trust between the police and citizenry so there is greater cooperation?

What kind of information will be used to guide the design of the social-intervention programmes? Will we be more likely to convict someone for a crime they commit after they've been arrested?

I trust that the lessons learned from the first implementation of the law will be taken into consideration, if there will be others. Let's get tough by demanding that parliamentarians cease politicking where crime and violence are concerned.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.