Factions fight for turf, but police determined to prevent criminal takeover of West Kgn
RELATIVES and forces loyal to two of West Kingston's notorious gangsters have been waging a deadly battle for turf in that section of Kingston, but the police are adamant that the area will not again be controlled by criminals.
Incidents of violence in West Kingston, including Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town, have left 11 people dead in recent weeks, raised the level of tension in the area, and have even resulted in death threats being issued to member of parliament Desmond McKenzie.
The battle over turf has escalated to a point that has seen a deterioration of relations among those close to imprisoned former Tivoli Gardens enforcer, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, and the late gunman Claudius 'Claudie' Massop.
Coke, who ran Tivoli Gardens like a fiefdom for several years, following the death of his father, Lester Lloyd 'Jim Brown' Coke under mysterious circumstances in 1991, was captured by local authorities in 2010 and extradited to the United States where he is serving a 23-year sentence in a federal prison after pleading gulity to racketeering.
Massop, a feared bad man during the 1960s and 1970s, was shot dead by a large group of heavily armed policemen in 1979 at the Marcus Garvey Drive/Industrial Terrace intersection, close to Tivoli Gardens as he returned from one of his regular visits to horse racing track Caymanas Park in St Catherine.
Also shot dead in that incident were Massop's friends, Trevor 'Hindu' Tinson, who lived in Canada, and racehorse trainer Lloyd 'Nolan' Fraser, 21.
Police said that they signalled the vehicle in which the men were travelling to stop and Massop jumped from it and fired two shots at them.
The law enforcers said that when they fired back, Massop and his friends were killed. Two other men who were travelling in the vehicle escaped, police said.
Both Coke and Massop commanded respect from all and sundry in the community that has remained fiercely loyal to the Jamaica Labour Party.
They were also accused of heading underworld organisations that controlled drugs and guns inside and outside the area, along with managing an exorbitant extortion scheme whereby vendors, merchants and traders in particular would have to pay them fees to do business in the area.
Now, the fight over who should "run things" in West Kingston has forced police to redouble their efforts at keeping things calm and maintaining stability in the business district.
Two members of Coke's family are at the head of one faction, while the other includes some of Massop's relatives and former associates.
Two West Kingston residents told the Sunday Observer during a Friday afternoon visit to the community that they were on the edge of pessimism that the community could be
They cited what they called the viciousness of some of the people at the heart of the dispute and insisted that the police were not capable of providing a long-lasting platform of comfort for them.
"Dem a go continue kill we off, because as soon as the police gone, man a go start buss gun again," one resident of a section called Lizard Town told this newspaper.
"The police dem good fi di place, but dem would have to live here for things to be good right through."
The resident said two members of the Coke clan "nah go let up because dem want power and dem and Claudie people dem a go go at it blood fi blood".
Another from Denham Town said that the lucrative spoils that are derived from the extortion trade would not deter the factions from going all-out to decide who should dominate the area.
"Dem man deh serious, man. Police can't stop dem. A whole heap a money involved, so dem nah go back off," the individual said.
In the meantime, the police remain firm that the days of West Kingston having its slate of dons are over.
"We can confirm that the war is between two families who are fighting over turf," head of the Constabulary Communication Network, Deputy Superintendent of Police Steve Brown, told the Sunday Observer.
"This 'war' has the potential of destroying businesses in the area and we have no intention of allowing that to happen. Downtown will not go back to the criminals.
"We have strong police patrols... the criminals cannot take back downtown and run it. That will never happen," Brown said.
Although there was a lull in murders during last week, the killings of an 11-year-old girl and a businessman remain stark reminders that all cannot be well.
Among those killed over a period of time are four nephews of MP McKenzie, all gunned down by police who described the circumstances as shoot-outs.
Police estimate that in excess of $500 million is earned annually by extortionists in the West Kingston area, which includes the bustling downtown Kingston.
Among the businesses targeted are those run by Chinese nationals who are not au fait with 'runnings' in the area and who often bypass the formal banking system, choosing instead to have huge sums of cash on them.