Last week on TVJ’s ‘All Angles’, JDF spokesman Major Basil Barrett told Dionne Jackson-Miller that ZOSO was not about catching criminals; it was about displacing them. That way, he argued, they would be easier to catch when moving around far from their safe havens.

Now, I’m no military or police tactician, so this argument struck me as strange. I’ll explain why, shortly. However, recent reports suggest that the plan in working, as criminals are apparently fleeing St. James and looking to infiltrate other parishes; see St James Gangsters Fleeing ZOSO In Droves:

“We are getting intelligence that many of the violence producers in communities like Bottom Pen, Norwood and Salt Spring are running away to other parishes,” a senior policeman, who asked not to be identified, told The Gleaner over the past weekend. “They see what is happening in Mt Salem and it has driven fear into them.” The lawman said that based on their information, the retreating gangsters are targeting parishes like the neighbouring Westmoreland and Hanover as well as St Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon.

This description of what’s happening is what has me confused.

I can understand the idea of ‘flushing out’ criminals from a small area in the sense that they are more vulnerable in the ‘open sea’, and will struggle to fight against the waves of police pressures they will find. It’s like channeling fish or birds into an area to get netted or pick off by shooters (sorry about that imagery). But, the supposition is that security forces would be ready in the fringe areas to capture the fleeing villains.

But, I don’t see that happening.

What I also wonder is, if the ZOSO has been flooded with extra security personnel, then that leaves fewer to tackle crime in the rest of the country. That would seem to expose the rest of the country to at least the same amount of villainy as before, and more likely more.

That seems to be what is happening: Mount Salem seems to have had no murders since the ZOSO was declared (but given the correct number of 7 murders so far this year, one would only expect at most one murder). However, killing and shooting seems to be going on unabated in the rest of Jamaica. For example, today’s papers report another gruesome double beheading in Clarendon. (In passing, this is a specially bizarre type of crime in Jamaica, which makes one wonder if it’s ritualistic, in either a criminal context or some other ‘cultish’ sense.) In other words, whatever criminals may have to fear in Mount Salem or St. James, they seem to have little to fear elsewhere.

I would also have understood the ‘displacement strategy’ better had several ZOSOs been declared at the same time; that way, even fewer safe havens would have been available.

So, we are still in the process of weighing the sense and effectiveness of this new crime-fighting strategy, but bear with me if I find some of the thinking on it a tad suspect 🙂

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