Rocky life in Rockfort - Gunmen have east Kingston PNP stronghold under siege
Lottery scamming and an influx of illegal guns have been identified as the main catalysts behind two deadly gang feuds in the east Kingston community of Rockfort.
The gangsters have left residents of the People's National Party (PNP) stronghold cowering in fear as the sound of gunfire pierce the air almost nightly over the last three months.
"Is Rockfort under siege? Yes. There are incidents of shootings and fear is a big issue. You can see the type of weapons being used and the amount of spent shells being left behind on some scenes," Deputy Superintendent Christopher Brown, the crime officer for Kingston Eastern Police Division told The Sunday Gleaner.
According to Brown, the recent flare-up of violence is a result of long-standing feuds, one involving gangsters from Jarrett Lane, which neighbours Rockfort and Oliver Road, and the other involving men from Barnes Road and those from an area known as 'Corner One', which is near the Jamaica Flour Mills plant.
In the Barnes Road-Corner One conflict, police say the gangsters fight in a tight space separated by a small intersection, usually flooded with children and the elderly.
In the meantime, Oliver Road and sections of Jarrett Lane appeared deserted when our news team visited last week as one roadside vendor, clutching her six-month-old son, and a barber complained about the impact the violence was having on their businesses.
"Me cyaan take it, brother, a mash dem a mash up man businesses. Trust me. Pure foolishness a gwaan inna di place," said the barber.
"The whole place under gunshot last night. It is like an every night thing for them. Just last night we hear that dem tie up three men up the road fi kill them. Luckily, that never happened ...," said one of three women standing on nearby Glasspole Avenue, located between the two battlegrounds.
The residents noted that gangsters from other areas of the community have struck alliances with one of the warring factions, leading to a string of drive-by shootings in recent weeks.
The violence has forced residents to stay off the roads as much as possible, shops and bars close early, while some roads have been blocked with anything the people can find as they try to prevent the drive-bys.
Six persons have been murdered in the area since the start of the year, while six illegal guns, three pistols and three high-powered weapons have been seized by the police.
One of the guns, a Galil Ace 22 rifle, was registered to the Haitian National Police, and the cops suspect that many of the guns and ammunition were purchased with proceeds from the lottery scam, a racket for which one man, Richard Davis, otherwise called 'Yogi', is said to be the main player in the Rockfort community.
According to the police, Davis is believed to be reeling in millions of dollars from the lottery scam, and is believed to have crucial information about the recent beating death of an enforcer in the community.
The cops are also looking for a man called Dwayne Barrett, also called 'Nooksie', who is said to be the front man in a gun-smuggling ring.
Both are listed as persons of interest by the police, who have already arrested nine persons they believe are major players in the conflicts.
According to Brown, the police have been working with residents in an effort to ensure a lull in the violence.
"We have been engaging the community because we can only police it with their consent. Personal safety, partnerships, increasing property value and crime reduction approaches form regular parts of the discussions in meetings," said Brown.