Women often at the heart when gangsters clash
Disputes surrounding women have been identified as the root cause of several of the violent clashes in Jamaica's inner-city communities, with young men resorting to illegal guns to war with others with whom they had shared classrooms, households and even meals during childhood.
"Nothing causes war like woman. Man dead over woman, good friends turn enemy over woman, and most of the time, it is because of some simple things that can talk over," said Michael Adams, a resident of the gritty Majesty Gardens community in St Andrew.
For decades, Adams has had personal interactions with some of those involved in the gun violence in the community through his work at the Majesty Transformation Fellowship Church.
Adams was among a group of five young men who spoke with our news team last week during a visit to an impoverished section of Majesty Gardens known as 'Dung the Road'.
The men also listed daily struggles with unemployment, a lack of resources, and inhumane living conditions as some of the other influential factors for criminality in their community.
But they agreed that the arguments tend to get deadly once there is some female influence.
"For example, one of my friends and some youth from up top (another section of the community) kick off," said 31-year-old Tyrone Ricketts, as he explained that 'kick off' means had a dispute.
According to Ricketts, the dispute was sparked after a young woman from his section of the community started a relationship with a young man from another part of the community.
"Because of that, man from up there say she a informer and that she a spy fi go back go tell man from down the road," added Rickets.
"Is about seven shot she get in her face," he continued, adding that the incident which happened years ago sparked several shootings and continues to stir bad feelings between the woman's killers, her relatives and her boyfriend at the time, all of whom grew up in the area together and know each other well.
At least three of the five men with whom The Sunday Gleaner spoke in the community coloured by zinc fences, muddy pathways, distant quarrels and the stench of raw sewage and animal dung had served time behind bars for gun crimes.
They sat on wooden benches outside a church, puffing marijuana spliffs, and recalling dozens of murders and shootings committed in their community as if they were relating an action movie screenplay.
They said most of the female-influenced killings involved women who got sexually involved with men from rivalling areas.
Others were sparked by men defending their female partners in squabbles, or defending their mothers or sisters.
Dr Herbert Gayle, social anthropologist and violence expert at the University of the West Indies, recently drew the ire of a women's group when he highlighted the influence that females, particularly mothers and their parenting methods, have on gun violence.
Gayle quoted international studies which he said showed that mothers are the core push factors for young men into crime.
According to Gayle, other push factors include the economic and social hardship in the communities in which these men live, abuse by fathers, abuse by the police, and relationships with female partners.
"A boy by age 12 will die for his mother. And studies have shown that the first person that a mother will actually die for is her son.
"And that is precisely why when anything happens and you go for information, you hear, 'Who? My bwoy? My bwoy a good bwoy. Him never do a thing yet'," said Gayle.
FAMILIES NEED FIXING
The researcher and university lecturer has repeatedly argued that fixing inner-city families is the main hope of curbing Jamaica's crime problem.
In the meantime, the group of young men claimed that while many of the conflicts within the community are among former friends and over domestic issues, with some mediation many of these could have been resolved peacefully. However, it was noted that intervening in a quarrel involving men with access to guns could easily result in one's death.
According to Ricketts, it is difficult to calm someone who is very angry and who has ready access to a gun.
"Remember, the whole a we a friends. If you go say something now, one a go say him a you a better friend, and you and him start war now because you are not siding with him.
"Sometimes influence do it, too, man. Me and you will par and you want to do something that me don't agree with and that in itself cause a conflict," added another young man, who identified himself as 'Baja'.
"You know how the garrison run already. Sometimes if you say something, you end up dead or your family them end up in problem. So sometimes the best thing is to just leave it alone or leave the place."