In the fast-moving story of how a possible positive attempt at crime-fighting turned into elements of a farce, the JCF issued yesterday clarifications of the crime statistics cited for the first area declared a ZOSO. The Gleaner report included the following statement (my stresses):

“The area of the zone of special operations is approximately .4 kilometres square, has a population of about 3,500 residents, with a murder rate of 190 per 100,000. This is four times the national average. The data clearly shows escalating violent incidents in the zone,” the JCF said in a press release.

According to the JCF, the revised figures for Mount Salem as at September 1 when the ZOSO took effect are:

– Four murders and 11 shootings in 2015

– Nine murders and 10 shootings in 2016

– Seven murders and eight shootings since January 2017

At a press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister last week Friday declaring Mount Salem as the first ZOSO, Acting Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake gave the following data:

– In 2014, there were 46 murders recorded in Mount Salem and its environs;

– 70 in 2015;

– 85 in 2016;

– 54 so far this year – 16 of which have been committed in the Crawford Street community alone.

VIOLENCE IN POLICE DISTRICT

In the statement yesterday, the Police High Command explained that the figures in the original report focused on violence in the police district, which includes the declared area along with other communities.

“It should also be clarified that during the presentation of the data, murders and shootings were conflated to give a violent-incident index, however, this was inadvertently presented as murders alone,” the release said.

“The JCF acknowledges that residents and communities should not be unfairly stigmatised and, therefore, supports the residents’ thrust to have the data clarified.”

According to the JCF, the violence situation in the police area is as follows:

– For 2014 – 20 murders and 26 shootings

– For 2015 – 35 murders and 35 shootings

– For 2016 – 39 murders and 46 shootings

– For 2017 – 27 murders and 27 shootings (as of July 7, 2017)

These figures, the JCF noted, clearly indicate that violence within the police area is escalating, and given the interconnected nature of criminal activity and the presence of organised criminal gangs, strongly suggest the need for intervention.

The JCF further said: “We have conducted a preliminary review of our protocols, which confirms that the collection, collation, and analysis of crime data is sound. However, we have concluded that there is a need for stronger protocols around the packaging of data, that is to say, how we report and present data to the public to avoid errors and misrepresentations.”

GANG INFLUENCE

The JCF also pointed out that the formula used to calculate the risk of proliferation and projection of organised violence in an area is linked to the number of gangs involved in criminal activity affecting the area, which is 12.

The release named Unruly, Junglist, Temple, and Alliance as the main gangs based in the Mount Salem area, with eight splinter/minor criminal groups that also operate and/or are based in the declared zone. These are Katan Lane, Nation Crocs (affiliates), Green Tank (affiliates), G City (affiliates), Texas Faction, Bronx Faction, OG Gangsters, and Blake Family.

According to the JCF, gang influence extends beyond the boundaries of their geographical turf.

“The presence of gangs drives conflict and violence within the declared space and creates informal and illegal systems to capture and control the people and community,” the statement said.

“The public should bear in mind that aside from internal havoc, these gangs have created an intricate criminal network, which has tentacles that stretch outward to other communities, exerting influence and spreading fear by using violence in support of their criminal enterprise.”

It continued, “Having reviewed the data and the analysis thereof, the JCF stands by its recommendation to the prime minister and the National Security Council for the declaration of the zone of special operations in Mount Salem.”

Sadly, for me (and, maybe, you) my working career was about making sense of statements and assessing whether there were logical or analytical weaknesses in them. So, let’s take a little shufti (English slang for ‘look’) at this statement.

First, the statement tells us the area of the ‘zone of special operations’, which I presume is the area specified in the gazetted orders. It then goes on to talk about ‘Mount Salem and environs’, without giving any idea of how that really differs from the ZOSO area, in terms of area and population; we could also ask what are the precise coordinates, given that the ZOSO has precise coordinates. So, the JCF leave us asking more questions from the fuzzy answer they give.

The statement then talks about murder rate of 190/100,000, which is the same as 1.96/1000. Now, I’ll let you test your maths skills and see if that corresponds to any of the numbers cited for murders in the statement.

I wont argue that the violence situation appears to be escalating, though as I wrote in an earlier post, unless one disaggregated what shootings actually involved (say, assailants and bullets used) what kind of escalation is still in question. So, intervene away!

But, in this area of escalating crime, the ability to crawl over every nook and cranny and search everyone entering and leaving the area, the JCF has unearthed about a dozen knives and most recently one handgun. Mighty strange, that! Unless…Surely, not? Well, do you any any other ideas, excluding everyone in St. James being related to Harry Houdini?

The JCF then tries to reassure us that all of their ‘bean counting’ should cause us no concern because they have reviewed ‘protocols’, which are ‘sound’, but need to do a better job of ‘packaging’ data. How about having some simple checks? As I noted in an interview given to TVJ a few days ago, it was mighty odd that someone from the community should have had doubts about the data, but not some member of the local police force. Surely, they knew how many killings had gone on in their area? I would have expected some local officers to have gotten onto ‘Police High Command’ to say “Hey, Chief! Those numbers aren’t right.” Perhaps, JCF protocols don’t encourage that kind of critical offering.

Almost every thing to do with the JCF seems to have gone pear-shaped as soon as ZOSO came into existence. Morale issues get blown up in significance. Nearly half the officers assigned do not show up to the work the area. The food is bad. We hear of other JCF ails, first with the Minister of National Security calling publicly for promotions to be made, forthwith, and rank and file staff saying to the media that promotions don’t happen because officers don’t want to succumb to sexual requests from seniors. The allegations have been upheld by senior officers of the Police Association. I can’t image that the protocols for unwanted sexual advances that are sound.

Some would see many of these revelations as politically-motivated.

I mentioned the word farce, at the outset. It could be much worse than that.

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