Speech by the Prime Minister

Prime Minister Andrew Holness – Declaration of Zone of Special Operations in August Town

As Prime Minister acting in accordance with the advice of the National Security Council, and having received the written agreement of the Commissioner of Police and the Chief of Defence Staff, I have declared a Zone of Special Operations under the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act, 2017.

The Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) (August Town Zone) Order, 2020 has been gazetted.

The community of August Town has been assessed as a significant contributor to the level of crime in the St. Andrew Central Police Division and for some time now has been designated a hotspot within this Police Area.   Based on the assessment, there is an urgent need for intervention.

The presence of major gangs in the community, as well as a number of other less organized gangs, has over the years, contributed to the level of crime.

Additionally, the criminal activities of these gangs are not only restricted to the geographical boundaries of the community but have negatively affected other areas.

The community in 2016 went a year without murder and it has been the beneficiary of several anti-violence social intervention efforts over decades.

Home to a rich cultural history, and with its proximity to the University of the West Indies and the University Hospital of the West Indies; the community is being robbed of its potential.

A study undertaken in 2017, point to a number of developmental challenges affecting the area. Among those were; Proliferation of Guns in the Community, Unemployment, weak family and parental support and poor community development facilities.

This, unfortunately is also the case in other communities.  Much is required to comprehensively address social ills and to achieve tangible, lasting change.

The declaration of a Zone of Special Operations is deemed necessary and suitable at this time, to apply targeted measures to restore public order,  and sustainable peace, in so doing ensure enduring transformation of the community.

Every community is different, and it will take time to achieve the intended aim. As we have seen in Mount Salem and Denham Town, targeted solutions require lengthy consultation and the ability to provide creative solutions to meet expectations and desired impact.

Last week, I declared a Zone of Special Operations in Greenwich Town and requested that support be given to our Security Forces in their resolve to address the extraordinary levels of crime in that community.

The measure is not meant to stigmatize communities, but instead, is meant to help foster the process of engagement and confidence-building between the citizens and the security forces.  It is not about addressing a current situation, it is about medium and long-term steps that will positively impact our children, grandchildren and the nation as a whole.

In accordance with the written recommendations of the Commissioner of Police and the Chief of Defence Staff, I have designated Ms. Jacqueline Coombs, Senior Superintendent of Police of the JCF and Major Kevron Henry of the JDF to be jointly in charge of operations within the Zone.