One day many years ago, in the days when the Gaza gang reigned supreme in their corner of Waterford, I was tasked to effect a raid on a house in that zone.
The house appeared to be just another of the thousands I had searched until I entered it.
Immediately, something struck me as odd. It just never felt like a home where guns would be. The home, whilst modest in construction and decoration, was clean. Efforts had been made to decorate it. There were curtains and a tablecloth. This was a home, a real home. This house had love in it.
The juvenile who I met soon after I entered didn't fit the profile of a gang thug either. He was clean and well-groomed, he had an appearance of innocence. Just as love showed on the home, you could see love on this child.
So I figured bad intel? Not likely, the divisional intelligence unit knows its job. If they send you to heaven to find the devil carrying your cross, he's likely to be there.
So we searched and to my surprise there it was.
Well, the young man came clean and was charged for possession of a firearm.
Later that day I spoke to the juvenile's mother. I asked her what went wrong, as he seemed well-raised.
Well, that gang was led by a popular recording artiste who is now a convicted prisoner.
I make reference to this because her explanation involved him.
She said: "Mr McKay, I am raising this boy by myself; I can barely afford to feed and school him. I cannot compete with this man. He gives him US$100 track shoes, thousands of dollars of pocket money, I am just a woman trying to raise a boy, there is no father."
Her reference to this famous artiste and his ability to alter norms in the gang environment I worked in, made me research further.
I started to look into his gang, his membership, and his recruiting techniques.
I found, to my surprise, that quite a few of his membership didn't come from the typical criminal families or careless yards that produce generational criminals.
One in particular that I had charged for a firearm, Andre St John, was actually from a very respectful, decent family in the community. I even recommended at his sentencing that he should receive a short as possible sentence.
Well, boy, was I wrong in that assessment of his future character. He was eventually charged with multiple offences after being released, to include the murder of a man known as 'Lizard'.
So as a criminologist, I tried to determine how this man changed decent, well-raised young men into gang thugs.
To be honest, I have never seen it in any gang environment I had studied up to that point. Most gangs recruit from negative environments bereft of positive parenting.
This guy was converting kids from lifelong Christian households.
I came to the conclusion that this was caused by a syndrome of 'national adoration'. The artiste was a national symbol of popularity, despite his negative conduct.
Despots often do this, ensure that their propaganda is so designed that only the positive comes to the surface.
However, his gang activity was as propagated as his music. So this was different.
These kids wanted to be in the company of what they perceived as greatness. Plus they were getting cool stuff as well.
The parents didn't stand a chance.
What can we learn from this?
Well, national icons need to take the responsibility for the use of their popularity and financial power.
We as a people need to use our influence and refuse to participate in supporting artistes who are being implicated in gang creation, leadership and membership.
Don't stream their songs, don't attend their shows, don't give permission for the shows they appear on, and ask other countries not to give visas for them to perform overseas.
Currently, we have artistes who openly speak of being involved in, or leading scamming gangs in their music, in their posts.
Are we going to allow the Kartel-Gaza cycle to occur over and over again?
Poverty creates a hole for most evil to walk through. Most of the time good parenting wins. Most homes in most garrisons don't produce gang members.
However, the variables change when national icons become criminal influencers.
The Government of the era responded and attempted to caveat the conduct of the noted artiste, now inmate, but it was too little too late.
Start looking into communities that popular artistes are influencing and look at the conduct of said artistes.
Take steps now to do something about it because this formula created Gaza and doomed many young men whose lives could have taken a different trajectory.
I'm seeing it in Montego Bay, Greater Portmore, Spanish Town and eastern Jamaica.
So let's go back to the woman raising the son who was charged for the gun. Sadly, she was killed in an incident of violence that was separate from this discussion we are having and was largely the victim of bad luck. The battle for her son failed and he never made much of himself; a thug in a gang still being run from a jail cell.
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