Cops wary of anti-gang backlash
MAY PEN, Clarendon:
A police officer attached to the May Pen Police Division says it is difficult to apprehend and arrest gang members if they are not caught in the act.
"If the police try to apprehend these suspected persons, it can easily be said that the police is targeting a particular person and they weren't doing anything wrong," the policeman said.
"I think community policing is the way to go now and we can never say it too much. As the police, we have to win the hearts and minds of the residents because we can't put a police in every troubled community or on every door step to protect persons," he added.
Clarendon, one of Jamaica's bloodiest parishes, is said to have several structured gangs, among them - the Bucknor Gang and the Real Niggaz Gang from Canaan Heights in the parish.
gangs operating in Ja
National Security Minister Peter Bunting has said that there are some 250 to 300 criminal gangs operating in Jamaica, with a number of them made up of schoolchildren. He said that teens are sometimes involved in the commission of very brutal acts.
Last year, Parliament passed a law which is intended to give the police power to dismantle gangs like those now thought to be responsible for the violent crimes in Clarendon.
Under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) law, popularly called the anti-gang law, it is an offence to recruit a child to be a part of a criminal organisation. A person found guilty of this offence could face a period of imprisonment of up to 25 years. Being a gang member attracts a 20-year sentence.
The Jamaica Constabulary Force has said that it expects to charge more than 500 people under the anti-gang law this year.
"It is anticipated that over the course of this year, we should see more than 500 persons charged under this legislation, and this will, in fact, help us to break the back of the criminal gangs that have been plaguing us for a long time," said deputy commissioner of police in charge of crime, Glenmore Hinds.
He was speaking at a press conference on Wednesday at the Police Commissioner's Office on Old Hope Road, St Andrew.
He said that 26 people have been charged under the anti-gang law to date.