Archive for the ‘gang’ Tag
We’ve had a lot of talk this year about the links between the gangs in Jamaica and the politicians (read more about Dudus here). But all this talk of garrison politics and historical links, has blurred the truth about today’s gangs in Jamaica.
The real situation has been highlighted by Damian Hutchinson in the JA Observer. He works to try and make peace by talking to warring groups when gang violence kicks off in Kingston and he makes some interesting points …
“So it’s a process where the entire community is wrapped up in the violence, so it is not just a gang, so it is very tricky when the police say they are going to dismantle a gang. How do you dismantle a community?
“It’s not just 10 man that you run into and kill off the 10 name brand man. His mother is there, his sister is there and his cousins are there. It’s community battling against community, so it’s very tricky when you say you are going to dismantle a gang, it’s communities”
“You will have a community with six streets and six different leaders. We have more pockets and definitely more groups.
Also there are situations where the don for the community is overseas, and so he influences the process and the money to buy bullets comes through a money transfer facility every Friday. That situation is much more complicated because whereas the main players are in the community and you can get them to come together at the table, when you have an overseas factor like that, it’s much more difficult”
“You have good gunmen and you have bad gunmen. ”
I can agree with this last statement as I have met a few of them.
Hutchinson also talked about a working man who used his savings to buy guns when the police failed to protect his community. There are many things that drive men (and women) to take up the gun in Jamaica. Condemning them without understanding the reasons behind their decision would be a big mistake, because therein lies the solution.
After two weeks in police lock-up, the dancehall DJ Vybz Kartel was released without charge on Friday July 16th. Now there are reports that he is going to sue the authorities for loss of earnings.
His lawyer, Valerie Neita Robertson (it was Chris Tavares – Finson before) is quoted as saying that the National Security Minister signed a release warrant for him on July 13th. So it seems odd that the police held him for 3 days on top of that. This is a good article which explains some of the background to the gang affiliations in the area of Portmore where Kartel was brought up.
Kartel was held under the state of emergency powers, but it was never clear what he was even being held for. He gave himself in, when he heard he was wanted for questioning.
Now he’s been released, it does not look good any way you look at it. In terms of the justice system, human rights, detention powers, use or mis-use of emergency powers. If this can happen to someone as high profile as Kartel, just think how ordinary people are being treated, with no-one ever getting to hear about it.
So Vybz Kartel has been in a police cell now for nearly a week and set to stay there for another month. From what I can see, it’s over gang activities in the Portmore area where he’s from.
Recently when I was in JA, I bumped into these guys who film music videos and they were really hating on Kartel big time. It seemed to be more of an issue for them since the death of Oneil from Voicemail. As I have said on this blog before, I have seen the links between dancehall artists and gangs before, but Kartel and his camp are the subject of a lot of rumours. I can’t say how involved he is in this shooting or this beating.
But what I can say is, it’s hard to be a dancehall artist and not have a gun or be part of a gang which offers some protection and status.
The prison riot at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre in Kingston is just what is happening to Jamaican society as a whole. The riot was predictable as this has happened before and also happened another time and another time – too many times to mention in fact. Will any lessons be learned? Well none have been learned so far.
Will there be an investigation that will amount to anything? Probably not and the reason is because the Jamaican government and society think that they have more important things to worry about, rather than looking after its’ prisoners and criminals. But this kind of thinking would be a big mistake because if you don’t care about the people in jail, then you probably don’t care about other people you don’t know, it’s about lacking sympathy, lacking forgiveness, not caring.
I’m in a harsh mood because I was talking to some elderly Jamaicans about how things used to be in the 1960s (not that long ago!!) and how you used to be able to trust people, but nowadays people are more likely to want to cheat you, rape you, lie and threaten.
Back to the subject matter – this riot was predictable – if you’re not going to give people water then what do you expect? The human rights group, Jamaicans for Justice are trying to push for an investigation (someone needs to give Dr Gomes a gold medal). The prisons are overcrowded and underfunded – god knows what’s going to happen when the anti-gang drive comes into force in March – the national security minister says that he wants to put them all in prisons – it seems he’s asking for more riots. if I were a prison officer in one of any of Jamaica’s jails, i would be even more worried than usual!
The United States of America, of course.
This article was linked to my blog and it’s a really excellent piece of journalism from AP writer, Mike Melia which I am going to paste here in full – something I do not normally do, but it’s so good, says everything I wanted to know.
Mike Melia, Associated Press Writer on Sun Jun 21, 2009 10:36 AM EDT
Ships from Miami steam into Jamaica’s main harbor loaded with TV sets and blue jeans. But some of the most popular U.S. imports never appear on the manifests: handguns, rifles and bullets that stoke one of the world’s highest murder rates.
The volume is much less than the flow of U.S. guns into Mexico that end up in the hands of drug cartels – Jamaican authorities recover fewer than 1,000 firearms a year. But of those whose origin can be traced, 80 percent come from the U.S., Jamaican law enforcement officials have said in interviews with The Associated Press.
And as the Obama administration cracks down on smuggling into Mexico, Jamaicans fear even more firearms will reach the gangs whose turf wars plague the island of 2.8 million people.
“It’s going to push a lot of that trade back toward the Caribbean like it was back in the ’80s,” said Vance Callender, an attache at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
U.S. authorities are beginning to target the Jamaican gun-smuggling network as part of a broad effort to boost security in the Caribbean.
But they have a long way to go. Jamaican authorities have confiscated only 100 guns coming into ports in the last five years, along with 6,000 rounds of ammunition. That in turn is just a fraction of the 700 or so weapons confiscated on the streets each year.
Authorities know they’re only seeing “the tip of the iceberg,” said Mark Shields, Jamaica’s deputy police commissioner.
With arsenals to rival police firepower, the gangs are blamed for 90 percent of the homicides in Jamaica – 1,611 last year, about 10 times more than the U.S. rate, relative to population.
Unlike in Mexico, the vast majority of Jamaican guns seized are submitted for tracing. Jamaica and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives find most of the seized weapons come from three Florida counties – Orange, Dade and Broward – all with large Jamaican populations, according to Shields.
X-ray scanners were installed two years ago at Jamaican ports, but the gangs use bribery and intimidation to get their shipments past inspectors.
In April, a newly hired customs supervisor had his tires slashed and days later was shot at on his way home from work, authorities say. The man was known for his strict scrutiny of cargo coming into a gang-infiltrated warehouse on the Kingston wharf.
When the gangs apply pressure, “no one says no,” said Danville Walker, Jamaica’s commissioner of customs.
“It’s a massive problem,” said Leslie Green, a Jamaican assistant police commissioner. “There aren’t any checks or any controls on goods leaving the United States. Yet anything leaving here, we have to make sure it’s double-checked and tripled-checked for drugs.”
This complaint – that Americans care only what comes in, not what goes out – echoes that of Mexican authorities, who say cars going from the U.S. into Mexico aren’t searched for weapons or cash.
Now hundreds of agents are participating in a $95 million outbound inspection program, stopping suspicious-looking cars and trucks as they cross the border into Mexico. Authorities don’t know how many firearms get through, but more than 12,000 guns used in crimes in Mexico last year were sent to U.S. authorities for tracing, a number that grows as more agencies in Mexico are trained to submit traces.
The U.S. and Jamaica both prohibit the unlicensed transport of guns. But like Mexican smugglers, Jamaican ones depend on lax U.S. gun laws, corrupt customs inspectors and front men acting as buyers.
Florida gun laws make it relatively easy to buy a legal firearm, and much of the smuggling is done by family and friends, said Shields, the Jamaican police official.
The guns are concealed in container loads of blue plastic and cardboard barrels, the kind Jamaicans use to send household goods to their families on the island.
Some shipping companies advertise a no-questions-asked policy in soliciting customers, said Walker, the customs commissioner. He declined to single out individual companies.
In one of the few Jamaican gun-smuggling cases prosecuted in the U.S., Tawanna Banton, 36, of Florida was convicted of buying a Glock handgun later used in the gang killings of four island police officers. She said her Jamaican boyfriend arranged the purchase, and she was paid $15,000 to buy the handgun and a .50 caliber “Grizzly” rifle with a tripod mount, according to court documents.
She told ATF agents the guns were then hidden inside kitchen appliances and driven to Miami for shipment to Kingston.
Banton pleaded guilty to making false statements to the gun dealer in 2006 and served a month in prison.
Besides coming in on freighters, authorities say, guns are stolen or purchased from crooked police or in “guns-for-ganja” deals by fishermen, who bring homegrown marijuana to nearby Haiti and return with pistols, revolvers and submachine guns – many of them believed to be from the U.S. as well.
Callender’s ICE unit began investigations in Jamaica last year with a focus on guns. He said agents in Miami and New York have been working to “interject themselves” into the shipping networks. Indictments are imminent in two or three cases involving suspected Jamaican traffickers inside the U.S., he said, without elaborating.
Then there’s the $45 million Caribbean Basin Security Initiative on regional security, announced by U.S. President Barack Obama in April, which is designed to help the islands counter any spillover of violence from Mexico.
Meanwhile, at the ports, Jamaican customs officials are training more spotters to patrol the warehouses, including five in Kingston who process an average of 10 shipping containers daily.
But inspectors feel the odds are still stacked against them.
“The guys we’re up against, they have time, they have money, and they are very resourceful,” said Andrew Lamb, a supervisor with Jamaica customs’ Contraband Enforcement Team. “They’re pretty good at what they do.”
© 2009 The Associated Press.