Gangsters' orders - Imprisoned gang leaders still running extortion racket
From behind the prison walls, two notorious gang leaders continue to extort business operators in Spanish Town, St Catherine.
The gangsters, linked to factions of the infamous Clansman gang, are reportedly demanding extortion money from business operators on a daily basis.
"It is a constant thing, and it is like they are operating unimpeded," said crime chief for the St Catherine North Police Division Senior Superintendent Marlon Nesbeth.
"You will walk on the road and a man just come up to you and say 'Big man! The boss want to talk to you', and when you take the phone is the gang leader on it giving you orders," added Nesbeth.
He said the gangsters mainly target businessmen and construction workers, but other residents believed to be financially well off are also targeted.
Major source of funding
According to Nesbeth, the gang leaders dictate the amount of money that should be turned over to their henchmen as both gangs depend on extortion as a major source of funding.
The Clansman, with its link to the governing People's National Party, also uses scamming, drug and gunrunning and murder for hire to finance its operations and the lavish lifestyle of some of its members.
Nesbeth's claim comes less than two weeks after a Gleaner exposé on the access to communication devices being enjoyed by some inmates in Jamaica's high-security penal institutions.
The exposé detailed how these convicts were using smartphones to upload photographs and videos of themselves and their activities online.
According to Nesbeth, the two gang leaders one serving time for murder at the Horizon Remand Centre in Kingston, while the other is serving a long sentence in the United States are the main architects of the extortion from behind bars.
Gangsters linked to these two men have been at odds for some time, leading to several shooting incidents, which have pushed the number of murders in that police division to 96 since the start of this year.
Nesbeth said the feud subsided over the summer but rekindled in recent weeks with a double murder in De la Vega City in Spanish Town.
40 guns siezed
At least 40 guns have been seized from the gangsters since the start of the year as Nesbeth and his team pushed to stem the violence.
The senior superintendent said the police have been using the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Bill, more popularly called the Anti-Gang Legislation, to target the gangsters.
He said that while he could not provide numbers, the legislation has enabled the police to arrest many key gangsters, including a policeman, in the Spanish Town area recently.
"We have made some serious inroads from good, hard work ... and we have been able to bring the place back to some level of sanctity. Some little starting up is occurring, but we have managed to maintain control in the area," said Nesbeth.
He said the police are searching sections of the division for André Knight and Kalonji Tyrrel, who are both said to be aligned to the other major criminal organisation operating out of Spanish Town, the Jamaica Labour Party-aligned One Order gang.
Knight escaped from the Spanish Town lock-up about two years ago while facing a murder charge and has since been implicated in at least two murders in the St John's Road community.
Tyrrell has been listed as a person of interest in relation to a murder in Bog Walk, St Catherine, last year.