(Jamaica Gleaner) Gang activities in many inner-city communities in the Corporate Area and St Catherine have taken on new terrifying and crippling dimensions and residents of these communities now understand that they must obey the orders issued by these hoodlums, or die.
Women are ordered to make their homes available to the criminals, or else. Cellphones are being systematically searched for police contacts and, in at least one of these communities, the gangs have issued a stern order: ‘No visitors are allowed unless we gave the permission.’ In their twisted minds, these gang members believe that visitors to the community – be it friends or family – are the ones taking the information out to the police.
Police Commissioner Owen Ellington told The Sunday Gleaner on Saturday that the police had developed counter-gang strategies and that the divisions were being provided with support to cripple the gangs.
The police are targeting the leadership, he said, and he trumpeted success in the St Andrew South Division which, he said, was enjoying, “a great deal of success dealing with gangs.”
Commissioner Ellington said that they had developed some techniques in dealing with the gangs there, and these techniques were being replicated in other communities.
“They are doing a tremendous amount of work and are reaping success,” the commissioner said.
Increased patrol of the communities is among the measures being used to restore the confidence of citizens. But tell that to people who are literally paralysed with fear, who, at this moment are feeling anything but confidence. Tell it to women from the Spanish Town Road housing scheme who must open their doors to criminals, like members of the ‘Rat Bat’ gang. At least nine of them have fled their homes, The Star reported recently.
“Dem have some house weh dem go sleep wen dem ready, and di woman dem cyaa complain,” one woman revealed.
“Wen dem ready, dem jus go knock up di woman dem and tell dem fi let dem in… Di woman dem know dem affi let dem in or dem affi leave,” another female resident added.
Forced to open homes
Residents said while some of the women were allegedly having sexual relations with some of the men, there were those who had no choice but to allow the thugs into their homes.
The women were too terrified to come on record with their experiences. And it is no comfort that the police are aware of their activities.
“We know about the Rat Bat gang and what they do, but they don’t operate like they once did, especially since the death of ‘Machine Man.’ We need the residents to help us so we can dismantle this gang,” crime chief for West Kingston, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Leslie Ashman, was reported as saying.
Dave ‘Machine Man’ Sterling, who led the Rat Bat gang, died during a reported shoot-out with the police last year. He was said to be responsible for an upsurge in crime in the Waltham Park area of St Andrew, and even as far as Spanish Town in St Catherine. The bullets took his life but failed to shatter the gang, which continues to terrorise the residents.
And while women in that community are forced to make room for the criminals, another group of residents must give up its cellphones so that gang members can check to see if the police are on their list of contacts.
Another Star publication located the practice mainly along Barnes Avenue, Raphael Avenue and Ramsey Road, communities off Maxfield Avenue, St Andrew, as well as in the St Catherine North Police Division.
The gang creating nightmares for the St Andrew residents is the ‘Stinger’ gang. Persons found to be in contact with the police are ordered to leave the community, or suffer the consequences, which everyone knows is death.
“Dis phone-searching ting start after di gang leader get shot. Him an police have shoot-out and dem shot him inna him foot. From dat, dem have it seh a people from ‘bout ya did a inform pon him movements,” a resident of Ramsey Road, who strongly requested anonymity, explained.
“Di man dem a go hard. At one point, it was just a one-off thing. Now, dem a do it regular,” another resident added.
Residents of Lakes Pen in St Catherine also said that they were facing a similar situation, as thugs had attempted to rid the community of persons they dubbed informers.
Writing for help
One resident went as far as writing a two-page letter outlining her fears to The Star two weeks ago.
She wrote, “Residents of the Lakes Pen community are crying for help, they are all living in fear … “
She continued: “If we ever walk past the police station, they call you informer. Handbags have been taken away and phones – to check if you are the ones calling the police. We need our community back…”
One other resident told The Star that she had been labelled as an informer by thugs from the community because she had had an affair with a policeman.
She said her cellphone was checked on several occasions and she eventually left the community as the threats were becoming more and more frequent.
The notorious Stinger gang has also issued a decree to residents living in communities off Maxfield Avenue, St Andrew, that everyone must get permission to entertain visitors.
Sources said that the gang members came up with the latest strategy after it was suspected that a family had given information to an ‘outsider,’ who then contacted the police, following a dispute about a month ago. According to reports, one man was arrested by the police and later released because no one came forward to give a statement.
The gangs continue to be the migraine of the force, even with the success of the measures in St Andrew South. The police have admitted that the Stinger gang was wreaking havoc in sections of the Kingston West division. But DSP Ashman said that the police were working towards dismantling the gang once and for all.
“They are giving a lot of trouble,” DSP Ashman was reported as saying. “We are working on some things, and we need to get them.”
Cops call for reports
And the St Catherine North police are asking residents to come in and make a formal report so initiatives can be devised.
An estimated 280 criminal gangs are operating in Jamaica. Commissioner Ellington, in a presentation titled ‘Gangs and Organised Crime in Jamaica – A Law-Enforcement Perspective,’ made as deputy commissioner, characterised the criminal gangs in Jamaica as highly efficient and absolutely ruthless in pursuit of their territorial and commercial interests – they kill anyone, anywhere.
He said that police intelligence linked over 80 per cent of violent crimes, such as murders, shootings, armed robberies, extortion, carjackings, kidnappings and contract killings, to criminal gangs
The police estimate that all identified criminal gangs are engaged in violent acts and are undermining community security.