Gangs killing a nation

Gang feuds have been blamed for 38 of the 609 murders committed across the island since the start of this year, but the police accept that marauding criminal gangs are responsible for much more.

“We have 392 murders since the start of this year where we are yet to determine the motive, but we are sure that a large number of these are gang related,” a senior detective told The Gleaner yesterday.

“Investigators on the ground and residents of the communities know that many of these killings are gang related, but they are listed as motive not established until we find the evidence to accurately determine the why,” added the detective, who requested that his name be withheld.

The detective pointed to last year, when 879, or 52 per cent, of the 1,680 murders, were linked to gangs as proof that more of the murders committed this year would be gang related.

Just over 700, or 45 per cent, of the murders committed in 2008 were gang related, while 799, or 50 per cent, of the killings in 2007 were linked to gangsters.

Youth targeted

“The gangs are the major drivers of murders in Jamaica, and we have to dismantle them and make them unattractive for youngsters,” said the cop, echoing sentiments expressed by Police Commissioner Owen Ellington and National Security Minister Dwight Nelson.

Ellington used his first media presentation after being appointed to act as commissioner to outline the threat posed by the almost 300 active gangs.

At that time, Ellington characterised the criminal gangs in Jamaica as highly efficient and absolutely ruthless in pursuit of their territorial and commercial interests.

According to Ellington, police intelligence linked more than 80 per cent of violent crimes to criminal gangs. The organised gangs are also heavily involved in the recent cash-for-gold scheme and the trade in counterfeit cigarettes.

Counting on nelson

Ellington has vowed to dismantle the gangs, and said he could count on the support of the national security minister, who has promised to provide the police with the resources to target gang members.

“The data show that the urban policing divisions of Kingston and St Andrew, St James, Clarendon and St Catherine account for 74 per cent of the total number of gangs,” Nelson told the Senate recently.

He charged that some of these gangs were collaborating with criminal networks overseas.

“Large gangs, such as One Order, Clansman, Umbrella and Rat Bat, have influence and control spanning several parishes,” Nelson said.

He said anti-gang legislation was being fast-tracked and would be designed to allow the police to target, infiltrate and dismantle criminal gangs, while identifying and arresting gang members.

With opposition senators appearing to support some of his comments, Nelson said the police would also develop intelligence as to each gang member’s association and participation, as part of efforts to disrupt the gangs.

“(We will) minimise the gangs’ ability to reorganise by having each defendant enter into substantial assistance agreements, plea-bargaining, for example,” Nelson said.

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