Wed | Oct 18, 2017

Gangs under pressure

Published:Saturday | September 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Several gangsters charged under anti-gang law

GANGSTERS FROM at least 10 separate groups operating in volatile communities in Westmoreland, Clarendon, St James and Kingston have been slapped with charges under the tough Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act, commonly referred to as the anti-gang law.

"We have been using the tool quite well, and there are certainly more arrests that we are going to be making as we continue to expand and build out our capabilities to use the tool more effectively," Deputy Superintendent of Police Samuel Blake of the Organised Criminal Investigation Division told The Gleaner.

Blake reported that several persons are now before the courts to answer charges under the anti-gang law since it took effect in April this year.

Asked whether the activities of some of the country's major gangs have waned with the passage of the anti-gang law, Blake said it would require more research to make an informed assessment. However, the senior cop pointed out that a reduction in some categories of major crimes could be the result of a decline in gang violence.

"We have always known, based on the evidence, that gangs are responsible for a fair number of crimes," Blake told The Gleaner, adding that a reduction in crime could be an indication of a lull in gang activities.

There has been a significant reduction in gang-related murders up to July, this year, when compared with the corresponding period in 2013. Statistics from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) show that for the first seven months of 2014, there were 307 gang-related murders. This compares with 472 gang-related murders for the similar period in 2013.

MORE WORK NEEDED

Commenting on whether the police have made any major inroads in the activities of the Spanish Town-based One Order and Clansman gangs, and the Rat Bat gang in Kingston, Blake said it required more detailed investigative work for the force to break the back of the sophisticated gangs in the country.

He reported that players linked to some major gangs have been arrested for serious crimes, adding that the JCF has been doing a good job in implementing the provisions of the legislation.

He said prior to the implementation of the law, the police had set up a proactive investigation team in eight areas plagued by gang activities.

Before its passage, the police consistently agitated for the promulgation of the anti-gang law, arguing that it would serve as a critical tool to reduce the number of murders in the country.