Gangsters in cross hairs

Gangsters in cross hairs

Security minister vows assault on gangs and guns

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, December 13, 2019

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THE police will be intensifying their efforts to capture, charge and convict gang members heading into the new year, as part of efforts to stem the violence that has left more than 1,260 people dead across the island since the start of the year.

Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang on Wednesday argued that, in the areas where known gangsters have been taken into custody by the police, there has been a noticeable reduction in crime. He vowed that this will continue into next year.

“There is no alternative but for the police to studiously pursue and aggressively apprehend and lock down the gang leaders and the gangsters,” Chang told journalists during a media briefing at Jamaica House.

“There are far more gangs today than five years ago, and far more gang leaders because there is more money out there that they are going after.

“In west Kingston, many of the [gang] leaders are in police custody. In fact, the majority of them,” added Chang, as he pointed to one of the nine police divisions which have recorded fewer murders so far this year, when compared to the same period last year.

Chang also pointed to the reduction in murders in the St Catherine North Police Division — which includes Spanish Town and the community of Dover near Kitson Town, where nine people were shot, four fatally, on Tuesday night — as one where the arrest of gang leaders has helped.

According to Chang, the two main reputed gang leaders in the St Catherine North Police Division, which has seen an almost 10 per cent reduction in murders so far this year, are in custody.

“One was convicted recently, his nickname Tesha Miller… and the other one... has been in police custody for nearly a year. So whatever else is being said, one of the principal ways of reducing crime in any area is getting the gangsters.

“In addition to that, the police have over 30 members of the Klansman Gang in jail, so north St Catherine is better this year than last year, and more are coming in,” declared Chang.

He said getting the gangsters is a priority of his ministry, through the security forces, because it has been proven that is one way of reducing crime.

The security minister said the other priority of the security forces is getting the many illegal guns out of the hands of criminals.

“The reality is that we have to keep fighting the fight to take the guns off the streets and that is going to take some time [because] there are a lot of guns out there,” said Chang.

Up to December 7, official figures from the police show that 631 illegal guns had been seized. This was a sharp decline from the 695 seized over the same period last year and the 824 seized in 2017.

But Chang argued that the success of the security forces in keeping the illegal guns off the streets is not readily apparent.

“The best index we have of how effective our efforts have been is that since we have acquired the capacity to patrol our coastlines more effectively since last year… the seizures of drugs have quadrupled,” said Chang, as he argued that this has restricted the guns-for-drugs trade.

The security minister pointed out that more than 40,000 pounds of ganja, destined for the guns-for-drugs trade, has been seized so far this year, compared to about 15,000 pounds last year.

He pointed out that for every pound of ganja seized going out, it reduces the number of guns which reach the streets of Jamaica.

“Twenty-five pounds of ganja fetch a side arm in Haiti, while it takes 50 pounds to get a rifle. That's how it operates. When we intercept a boat that might be carrying guns from Haiti, they usually dump the firearms,” said Chang.


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