THURSDAY morning's shoot-out between gunmen and the security forces on Dyke Road in Portmore, St Catherine, led to the unearthing of a dangerous criminal gang headquarters in the heavily forested territory just behind Gregory Park.
The police were initially responding to reports of houses being set ablaze in Gregory Park, when the gunfight ensued resulting in one man being killed and two of his cronies escaping in bushes on Dyke Road. The Independent Commission of Investigations is probing the fatal shooting.
During a search of the base, lawmen seized one M16 rifle, two shotguns, an Ak-47, a Taurus pistol and a .380 handgun. Other things were discovered, including food, utensils, empty liquor bottles, clothes, shoes, items used to clean weapons, hammers, mosquito repellent and several containers of gasoline.
Consequently, Christopher Phillips, senior superintendent of police in charge of the St Catherine South Police Division which includes Portmore, warned the public to be very careful when traversing the area — especially at nights — as it is commonly used by criminals from the neighbouring Gregory Park community who seek to elude the security forces. Phillips also appealed for significant de-bushing to be done on Dyke Road.
"Be very careful. This is a regular area for criminals to move across. We have established that inside these bushes is a headquarters. In fact there are boundaries within the bushes for the various criminal syndicates operating in the area. Whenever the police come into Gregory Park this is one of the areas that the men escape into. If you have been tracking the history of our interaction with Gregory Park, we have had a lot of near misses. Men escape in nearby bushes a lot around here," SSP Phillips said. "We now have a better understanding of what is happening and how these areas are utilised. We are going to be dominating this space. It is our ground now and we are appealing to those youngsters who continue to be a part of this criminal syndicate — you have an opportunity to step out, because we are not going to relent."
He added: "I want the media feature Dyke Road. This is not good for public safety. I am calling on the authorities to see if we can get this area cleared of these bushes so that we can have proper visibility. At nights it is not properly lit and that creates a hazard for the police operating in the space. All in all, we are committed to the task and we are going to be doing further operations."
Further, Phillips named persons of interest whom he demanded should turn themselves in to the police.
"Shane Williams otherwise called 'Gaza Tousaint'; a man known as 'Teacha'; Imaro McKenzie otherwise called 'Munga'; and Kirk Wint otherwise called 'Big Red'. We ask them to turn themselves in to the police immediately. These are names we have published before and they continue to be violence producers and gang leaders within the space and we are not going to stop until those men are behind bars. We suspect these men this morning were the ones who set the houses ablaze, based on what we went and saw, like the gasoline and so on. Those men would be from the Mexico faction," he said, pointing out that Gregory is plagued by violence perpetuated by gangs from areas called Mexico, Gulf and Banga Gully that all use imported gangsters to carry out crimes.
In the meantime, the senior superintendent said Gregory Park needs strong social intervention and called on justices of the peace, pastors and other stakeholders to come together and implement programmes.
"Gregory Park needs more than just the routine police operations. We need some strong social intervention inside. I want to build out a stronger partnership with the community. We have been giving it our best shot but I know that more work is needed."
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