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Gov't gangs up on thugs

Published:Thursday | June 10, 2010 | 12:00 AM
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Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter

The Government is to establish an anti-gang unit in the Ministry of National Security as part of its thrust to demolish organised criminal networks believed to be behind the majority of violence in Jamaica.

The special unit is to provide support to a similar team being established in police force.

"This is to ensure that adequate financial resources are provided to support the anti-gang activities of the Government of Jamaica," Daryl Vaz, the minister with responsibility for information, told the weekly post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday.

According to Vaz: "The anti-gang unit in the police force will be comprised of investigators and analysts with continuous support from the director of public prosecutions to target the most organised and violent gangs operating in Jamaica."

Vaz added that the proposed anti-gang legislation, which is at the heart of the Government's two-pronged approach to lasso galloping crime, is closer to reality.

"The Cabinet approved proposals for the introduction of legislation to provide for the suppression and disruption of criminal gangs and related activities," Vaz said.

The Government had previously indicated that it intended to have the anti-gang legislation ready for parliamentary debate before the summer recess.

Prime targets

Security Minister Dwight Nelson has repeatedly argued that the security forces need to dismantle the engine of Mob. Among the Government's prime targets are the One Order and Clansman gangs, which operate out of Spanish Town, St Catherine; the Umbrella thugs in Portmore, St Catherine; and the Corporate Area-based Rat Bat gang.

According to Nelson, these crime cartels have influence and control spanning several parishes.

The security minister has promised that the anti-gang legislation will be designed to allow the police to target, infiltrate and, ultimately, destroy criminal networks while identifying and arresting their members.

Nelson has also pledged that the police will develop intelligence on each gang member's association and participation as part of its crackdown.

"(We will) minimise the gangs' ability to reorganise by having each defendant enter into substantial assistance agreements, such as plea-bargaining," Nelson declared recently.

The police estimate that there are more than 200 gangs with approximately 4,000 members operating across the island.

arthur.hall@gleanerjm.com