Sat | Dec 5, 2020

Murder wave tops agenda

Published:Thursday | November 19, 2020 | 12:17 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
Superintendent of Police Leighton Gray, commanding officer for Kingston Western, says splintering gangs have worsened violence in the area. Murders in the tough police division are up 65 per cent and shootings 80 per cent year-on-year.
Superintendent of Police Leighton Gray, commanding officer for Kingston Western, says splintering gangs have worsened violence in the area. Murders in the tough police division are up 65 per cent and shootings 80 per cent year-on-year.

As Jamaica’s Crime Monitoring and Oversight Committee prepares to update the nation on its deliberations, stakeholders will be acutely aware that the wave of violence flaring for decades is still at crisis proportions.

Despite a slew of coronavirus quarantines and night-time curfews that have turned communities into ghost towns over the last eight months, murders and shootings have had negligible declines.

Up to November 15 this year, 1,133 people had been murdered, 21 fewer than for the corresponding period in 2019. This year’s 1,108 shootings are five fewer than last year’s total.

Murders have fallen in nine of the country’s 19 police divisions, with Kingston Western presenting the gravest threat, with 86 deaths, a 65 per cent rise over last year’s 52. Shootings have soared there by 80 per cent.

Those statistics are telling signs of the dilemma for commanding officer of the Kingston Western Police Division, Superintendent Leighton Gray.

Gangs have splintered in the crime-plagued sector of Jamaica’s capital, with breakaway mini-dons engaging in internecine battles. The coronavirus pandemic has complicated the crisis, he said.

“I believe now that with the COVID situation that exists, some of the persons, in my own estimation, I think they are actually becoming desperate in terms of trying to eke [out an existence]. They are actually fighting for some spoils.”

RESISTING ‘system’

The Tivoli Gardens Young Generation and Scream Corner gangs are among several that have asserted independence from ‘The System’ – a powerful code maintained by enforcers like now-jailed mobster Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, whose iron hand transformed Tivoli Gardens into a personal fiefdom. Others in nearby Denham Town are also resisting the unwritten laws of the criminal underworld.

“However, the Tivoli Gang, who really believe that they are the dominant gang, are insistent and want to dominate the space ... so that is what is creating some of the conflict,” Gray said.

Those gangs are among 250 plaguing the Corporate Area, with nearly 140 others operating elsewhere in the country.

A Kingston Western resident who spoke with The Gleaner on Wednesday said that crime and violence is inevitable - perhaps as expected as sunrise and sunset.

“Things always a gwaan around here, all when it nuh come on the news. People a get shot, people a get kill same way. All when the soldier dem deh right here suh. Dem ya likkle yute nuh care,” the resident, declining to be named, said.

“You know how ghetto system stay: Ya haffi live with it, and if you can move out of it, you move.”

Other major crimes such as robberies, break-ins, aggravated assault, larceny, and rape are significantly down in Kingston Western, Gray said. But he knows that bloodshed invokes maximum fear, diminishing other gains.

The police commander is hopeful that additional support will roll in well before Christmas.

“We are fully aware that at this time, you will tend to have more persons come in and commit robberies, and so forth. As a result of that, we have actually crafted a plan to really manage, especially the market district,” said Gray.