Police, citizens unite to cripple Umbrella gang
THE MAY 16 Gun Court conviction of Travis 'Shrek' McPherson and Odean 'Zeeks' Samuels was so celebrated among lawmen that Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, in a closed radio broadcast, personally congratulated the St Catherine South Police Division.
McPherson and Samuels, named by St Catherine South's Senior Superintendent Colin Pinnock as being among the top five members of the notorious Newland, Naggo Head-based Umbrella gang, were found guilty of shooting at members of the St Catherine South Fugitive Apprehension Team in June 2009.
They are to reappear before before Justice Sarah Thompson-James for sentencing on Friday.
"This is not a joke gang, it's a serious gang," Pinnock told The Gleaner.
"They are involved in murders, extortion, shootings. They are rivals to the Craft and Guerilla gangs. They have frequent conflicts that lead to violence," he added.
Pointing to the general area of Naggo Head, Newland, and Portmore Lane as being the Umbrella gang's stamping ground in Portmore, St Catherine, Pinnock said the conviction of McPherson and Samuels was a result of relentless pursuit of gangsters in the St Catherine South division.
Part of that strategy, Pinnock said, was cutting off the head of the serpent.
"We have made significant inroads because the leadership of that gang has been convicted and is in prison right now," the senior superintendent said, referring to an infamous figure whose name, though incarcerated, once drove fear into residents of Newland, Naggo Head and Portmore Lane.
Pinnock agreed that the incarcerated Umbrella gang leader, and other similarly jailed thugs, still have some influence on the outside.
"He is serving probably a 15- or 20-year sentence," he said. "At times, they are more dangerous in prison. They stay there and give instructions to kill people. Their imprisonment, sometimes, is more dangerous. When behind bars, people might believe they can't do anything, but they're very effective.
"It is the prison authorities who must try to minimise their communications, putting in telephone blockages as much as they can," the senior superintendent pointed out.
On the outside, Pinnock said he and his men are doing as much as possible to shut down the gang for good.
"There are some residual elements still around and we're keeping them under tight wraps. We've been targeting these elements and have been successful in minimising their effect in the area."
The once-cowering citizens, Pinnock said, have played a big role in assisting the lawmen.
"We have got tremendous support from the citizenry from the areas in which these gangs operate. That has allowed us to police the area in an effective way. What we've used is the strategy of community policing, which is one of our major planks to police Portmore especially.
"We've had good interaction with the citizenry by having widely publicised meetings, neighbourhood watches and other meetings at different levels," he explained.
As Zeeks and Shrek await sentencing, Pinnock issued a stern warning to the "residual elements" of the gang.
"When you get rid of those from the community, it sends a message to the other gangsters that top-tier members also go to prison.
"What I would say to the others out there is to move away from your criminal behaviour and embrace the kind of community we're trying to build," he said.
"Their actions will not be tolerated. If you get involved in criminal activities, we will charge and put you before the court. This is not a 24-hour argument, it is continuous. We will be relentless in ensuring things never return to where it was before, where these men would shoot, kill and extort at will," the senior superintendent warned.