Serial killers stalking Jamaica - Researcher, police agree that repeat offenders behind murder numbers
A group of heartless, deadly and cold-blooded young men scattered across the island are believed to be responsible for the majority of the more than 800 gun murders committed in Jamaica since the start of this year.
"If you look at our murder rate, more than half the number of the persons killed in this country are killed by someone who kills more than one individual," anthropologist of social violence, Dr Herbert Gayle, told a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum.
"It's not that we have people who are trying to kill people, but people accustomed to doing it," added Gayle, as he labelled the gunmen "serial killers".
Senior Superintendent of Police Marlon Nesbeth, who heads the St Catherine North Police Division, which contains some of the deadliest gang lands in and around Spanish Town, was quick to agree with Gayle.
According to Nesbeth, the killings in his division are usually carried out by repeat offenders who are lured into a life of crime with promises of grandeur.
"The killings are limited to a certain group of guys. My argument is based not only on the factual data when we charge them, but some of it is intelligence where we know that charges are on them but we can't reach them with evidence," said Nesbeth.
"We have information that the shooters are generally repeat offenders. It is almost unusual that you find a man does a one shooting and that's the end of it. We have information also that at a very tender age most of them are brought into crime by older gangsters," added Nesbeth.
Superintendent Jacqueline Green, who heads the St Andrew North Police Division, also agreed that criminals in her division are usually repeat offenders.
"We are talking about persons between 18 and 35 years old. A lot of them are involved in all types of crimes: murders, extortion, and a lot of them are caught up in this thing of wanting to be a don," said Green.
"What we also know is that no matter how bad these guys are, they are very close to females in their families, mothers, and aunts. They don't want to disappoint their mothers and they are highly protective of them," added Green.
That tie to their mothers is among the factors Gayle believes create these serial killers.
According to Gayle, the making of the Jamaican killer starts in the households, where extreme disciplinary measures meted out by parents, particularly mothers to their young boys, are the root causes for disturbing behaviour later on in the child's life.
"Mothers' violence against children is immense. It is regularised, more accepted. And when something becomes acceptable, it is done more often," said Gayle.
Having studied Jamaica violence from domestic threats to terrorism for more than two decades, Gayle argues that pent-up hostility from parental abuse causes some youngsters to become more ruthless, and desensitised individuals after their first homicide.
FRAGMENTED BY MOTHERS
"These youngsters, fragmented by their mothers," Gayle said, "are more likely to become serial killers, meaning they kill three or more persons before being arrested or cut down by the police or criminal rivals."
But one former gangster, who has served time in prison for a murder, does not share Gayle's view.
"Me understand what him (Gayle) a say but that never really go for me still," said Mark*, as he explained his introduction to the criminal underworld at age 14 in the tough community of August Town, St Andrew.
"My mother used to beat me and thing, but is not that make me really start do certain things. Me mother just never have the money to take care of me and me bredda and sister dem, and me was the oldest one, so you know me did have to go look it," said Mark.
According to Mark, the flashy lifestyle and snazzy dressing of the 'shotters' in his community was not only a contrast to his life but became a goal to which he aspired.
He said he gained the trust of the dons from his community by securing illegal weapons and by digging shallow graves for 'soon-to-be' victims for payment.
He recalled receiving 'crisp' $1,000 bills folded in paper envelopes from the dons, who praised his brazenness. Soon after, it was he who was filling the graves with victims of his own.
"I couldn't sleep after the first one (killing). Before him dead, him let out a sound, like a moan, and every time I go to bed, I would hear that sound. Some time me wake up in the morning and is it first me hear. The first one really affect me, but after that it wasn't that bad ... you get used to it," said the youngster who recalled more than eight murders in which he had been involved before being arrested and imprisoned for one of the cases.
In a performance audit carried out at the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) by the Office of the Contractor General last year, it was revealed that the DCS was understating the number of repeat offenders serving time at its correctional institutions.
The audit noted that: "Using DCS method, the reoffending rate would be 29 per cent. However, when inmates with previous non-custodial sentences are included, the rate rises to 51 per cent. Consequently, information provided by the DCS to their stakeholders, such as the Ministry of National Security, could negatively impact strategic decisions."