Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Longevity of gangs in Ja similar to Crips, Bloods in US

Published:Thursday | November 24, 2016 | 11:00 AMJason Cross
Robert Montague (centre), minister of national security, speaks with Dr Carl Williams (right), commissioner of police, while Martha Cecilia Jaber, Mexican ambassador to Jamaica, looks on during the UWI Open Campus and Jamaica Constabulary Force Inaugural Regional Conference on Policing and Security, held on Tuesday at the Mona Visitor’s Lodge in St Andrew.

Decades of war between the Crips and Bloods, two of America's most infamous gangs, operating in a country where law-enforcement officials possess some of the best equipment in crime-fighting, has convinced Commissioner of Police Dr Carl Williams that the dismantling of gangs in Jamaica will be a difficult task.

Williams, addressing the University of the West Indies Open Campus/National Police College of Jamaica inaugural staging of a regional seminar addressing gang-related crimes, insisted that the longstanding existence of gangs in Jamaica is not a problem unique to the island.

The seminar, taking place at the Mona Visitors' Lodge at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies in St Andrew, was attended by national security stakeholders.

The commissioner in his address narrowed down law enforcement's failure to dismantle gangs to the lack of adequate resources.

"When (people) ask about the longevity of gangs, I tell them it is not as simple as it seems. When you look at the situation in Los Angeles, California, where the Crips and the Bloods have been at it for the last 40-plus years, then you would understand that with all the resources that law enforcement has in the United States, and they can't get rid of two gangs that have been around and creating problems for a long time. You (will then) realise the magnitude of our problem in Jamaica. With our scarce resources, it's going to be difficult," Williams said.

 

SPIKE IN CRIME

 

Alarmingly, Williams said the nation is currently seeing an unusual spike in the number of different gangs across the island engaged in violent conflicts, all at the same time.

Gangs in a number of parishes, including Kingston, St Catherine and St James, have launched deadly attacks on each other in recent weeks.

There has also been an increase in intra-gang conflicts, giving way to bloodletting.

"Right now, we are in the middle of an upsurge of crime that we've been seeing. Rarely have we seen a case where so many gangs are in conflict at the same time. It's happening from east to west," Williams stressed.

He noted that a major contributor to the continued violence is the fact that community members continue to shield thugs.

"At some point, you don't even know where the gang stops and where the community starts. You have passive and active support from some of the communities. [In] The communities, it seems to me, there are some symbiotic relationship developing between communities and the gangs. The gangs rely on the community for support and the community relies on the gangs for protection. That is particularly problematic because the gang is seen as providing a function."

Minister of National Security Robert Montague noted that protection provided by gangs usually comes at a great cost to residents.

"They (residents) have become imprisoned by fear, and gripped in cycles of violence that leave families grieving, businesses destroyed, people brutally killed, and the collapse of social order and community life," he said.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com