Dr. Peter Phillips and Dr. Horace Chang
Amid concerns about an uptick in crime in sections of the island, Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips, has called for Prime Minister Andrew Holness to immediately extend Zones of Special Operations in the affected areas.
He is also recommending changes to the Jamaica Defence Force Act.
In his contribution to the 2019/2020 Budget Debate Thursday afternoon, Dr. Phillips said the Act could be amended to give more power to the army.
ZOSOs have only been used in Mount Salem, St. James and Denham Town, Kingston.
"Why is the administration not using the ZOSO more, not just in St. James, but in Clarendon, Westmoreland, other parts of the corporate area? Why not? Mr. Speaker, ZOSO provides for deployment of joint security forces, police and soldiers together on the ground. It gives the security forces the same powers of a state of emergency to detain suspects, search and cordon, etc. The only additional power that the state of emergency provides is the ability to detain indefinitely without recourse to the courts," he declared.
Additionally, he said a more effective crime plan is needed.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Opposition has continued to insist that there is reduced police/military presence in St. James since the State of Publlic Emergency was lifted in January.
Dr. Phillips presented data which he said show a significant decrease in security personnel in the parish. He attributed the flare-up of crime and violence in St. James to the reduced security presence.
"The JDF presence in the parish of St. James is nearly 50 per cent lower than it was during the state of emergency - 46 per cent lower to be precise; and that the presence of the JCF is 40 per cent lower than it was. No wonder there is an upsurge of criminal activity in the parish," he suggested.
However, National Security Minister Dr. Horace Chang disputed the statements by Dr. Phillips.
He said nothing has changed in the troop numbers in St. James.
"The current position is the divisional strength of St. James is 791. Operational, normally about 650 that remains in place. There were 246 men moved to St. James during the SOE. They remain in place in St. James. The only change that has happened is that 20 men used to be moved from Area 2, which includes Portland, St. Mary and St. Ann. That ceased on the 1st of January," he insisted.