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Central Kgn cries out for release from hellish grip of gang warfare 

The political directors of the constituency of Central Kingston and some residents there are blasting criminal elements in the constituency who are engaged in gang warfare, which is wreaking havoc on law-abiding citizens.

Member of Parliament (MP) for Central Kingston, Donovan Williams of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP); the People’s National Party’s caretaker, Imani Duncan-Price, and Councillor for the Rae Town Division, Rosalie Hamilton all agree that the situation needs to be reined in to save lives.

The gang feud has been taking place for a number of years, but intensified in recent months with multiple shootings and drive-bys that have claimed many lives, including women. A number of individuals have also been injured, including children.

Among the recent shootings were two different incidents of five people being shot in drive-bys, in the communities of Southside and Tel Aviv.

There have also been other shootings in other sections of the constituency that the political directors believe are directly linked to the gang feud taking place.

“At this point, there has been a spate of murders and drive-by shootings over the last few weeks all over this constituency. While you hear about Tel Aviv and Southside, there are also murders in Franklyn Town, there were murders in Rae Town two weeks ago. There is uncertainty and there is fear amongst so many of the constituency residents.

“Based on my understanding, it is not political violence happening here, it is economically driven by virtue of gangs wanting to control turf. Turf equals economics, turf is access to downtown,” said Duncan-Price.

It is understood that the criminals are fighting for turf in the main business community of downtown Kingston, which involves extortion and other criminal activities that bring in money for two of the gangs in the area.

The gang war has made sections of the city, which are normally bustling with activities at daytime, now deserted, as both residents and shoppers shy away from the streets. The residents also fear unusual approaching vehicles because of the drive-by phenomenon.

According to Hamilton, the situation has now reached a level that she was threatened when she tried to get the relevant authorities to act on criminal elements inside the constituency, this after her attempts at mediating between the feuding factions failed.

She said she made an attempt to quell the disquiet in the community after two women were recently shot and killed on a bus while returning from a funeral at Meadowrest in St Catherine on April 29. Other individuals were shot and injured in the incident, including a child.

Hamilton said she lamented to members of the gangs the killing of women and wounding of children in their feud, and was rebuked before being threatened on social media.

“They were plain to me that some a di woman dem fi dead. They were very plain. Some a di woman dem fi dead, and it nuh done, and it and them nah done.

“The writings that they put on Facebook, one of it said that my name is on a bullet. It said ‘gal yuh name deh pon a bullet’.

“So I am being threatened by those guys who are in jail because it is one of them who is in jail write it,” said Hamilton.

Both Duncan and Williams bemoaned the drive-bys in which five individuals were injured in each. However, Williams believes the police left the residents of Southside defenceless in one case.

He said the police conducted two operations in the area during the same week, with one happening the day before the drive-by, but failed to offer follow-up protection for the residents.

“Mark you, if it is that the rationale is that they (police) contemplate there might be a reprisal, that is police work, I understand, it’s police strategy. But they cannot carry out two operations here and then the very next day the people are shot up, the people are defenceless, you don’t protect them,” said Williams.

Duncan, noticeably, claimed that Williams is only representing one section of the constituency. She said Williams is being partisan while the violence rages.

“Anybody who suffers from a drive-by, from murder, needs to be seeing a helping hand reached out to (the individual), and they are not seeing him in many parts of the constituency. Show up, be the leader that people need us all to be,” she said.

In a recent visit to both Southside and Tel Aviv, individuals showed gunshot wounds they received, and stated that they are living in fear, as the ongoing conflict is causing anxiety in a variety of ways.

There was police presence at sections of both communities, which the residents said has somewhat eased their discomfort.

“If the police never deh yah, mi would deh inna mi house or deh a the gateway, mi couldn’t deh pon di corner, because mi haffi a watch all cars and a seh ‘watch dah car deh, how it dark up suh’, and run.

“The police dem deh yah now suh the people dem please, the grung safe yah now. Dem never did a duh dem work back then, but now dem step up, because dem get talk to; dem a duh dem job,” a resident of Tel Aviv said.

A young man from Southside, who was shot in a hand and a foot in one of the drive-by shootings that caused multiple injuries, recounted that he was sitting on an old refrigerator in the community, when a silver car was driven up, from which men alighted and started firing shots at residents. In that incident, an 11-year-old was also injured in both feet.

That same shooting left a woman contemplating her next move for her food business, as the deep fryer she recently purchased was destroyed by a bullet. She credited the equipment and the table it was on with possibly saving the lives of individuals in the business, by stopping bullets.

“Most of the people who were here, were coming to purchase from me. So when all of that happen now and the baby (the 11-year-old) get damaged (wounded), nuhbody coming back. Nobody nah guh waan come back come buy nothing from mi right deh suh, because them a guh deem it unsafe. Suh right now is like me don’t have a business. Mi just buy that deep fryer two months ago and gunshot mash it up,” she said.

A resident from Tel Aviv, who sells jerked items from a pan, agreed that the gang war is interfering with their ability to make a livelihood.

“Couple weeks now nuh business nuh get fi gwaan. It mash up wi business. Wi want know waah gwaan. We want this fi come back. We tired ah it now. We want this fi come back. The pickney dem not even a walk up and down fi come buy the likkle chicken neck,” she said.

Williams and Duncan-Price differ on the possible way to solve the problem. For Williams, there needs to be a change in the hierarchy of the police in the constituency, while Duncan-Price posited a Zone of Special Operation (ZOSO), which she said is what the residents want.

Duncan-Price added that a sustained law enforcement focus on the main players involved in the gang feud, is needed.

For Williams, “The police need to intervene. The people are under attack, women and children, and I am calling on the authorities to do something about this. It cannot continue, this wanton, reckless, criminal, devilish operation must stop in this constituency,” he said.

“The truth is – this is my true position. If the police here cannot handle Kingston Central, we need a change of leadership, we just need new policing, fresh perspectives, because the police here, they are here for years, but yet still the constituency is like this,” added Williams.

“So we probably need fresh faces, we need fresh perspectives, we need fresh operations, we need planned, targeted operations; we need intelligence-led operations; we need more police personnel; we need the commissioner to dispatch more police personnel in Kingston Central; and we need to root out these guys who continue to go around and act with impunity as if there is no law here,” he continued.

Duncan-Price, meanwhile, said: “My understanding as I talked with residents across the constituency, across the communities, is that even though we see a drive-by in one community, a murder in a next community, oftentimes their networks are linked, gangs are forming alliances against common enemies, gangs are fighting gangs with different young men, in different locations; so you (the police) can’t just be in where you think the hottest spot is; in a Tel Aviv alone or a Southside alone; but you have to map it out across the key communities in the constituency – Tel Aviv, Southside, Spoilers, Midtown.

“Really and truly, (they need to) just interrupt the cycle, not forever; there is no long-term ZOSO here, but just interrupt the cycle of violence so people have a chance to breathe and live and regain a sense of security and peace,” she elaborated.

“All of that is an arc of violence, which needs to stop. The dynamics are there; break the network and break the cycle, and then we begin to rebuild these communities, invest in the constituency, because they deserve it,” she further said.

She added that there also needs to be community support from corporate Jamaica and the Government. She said the people of the constituency need jobs and earning opportunities that will come from training.

Some residents are also appealing to the thugs to stop the violence that is being carried out, especially against women and children, who get caught up with the various indiscriminate shootings.

“Right now everybody supposed to come together. You stay a your quarters, me stay a my quarters. Weh unnu a fight fah? The struggling power dis nah guh work. Just leave the place alone mek it stay. When the place was one as PNP, them violence yah never used to gwaan. Now it change, everything change. We need wi community fi come back together,” a resident of Tel Aviv said.

The businesswoman whose deep fryer was destroyed, added that: “All mi know it nuh make nuh sense and wi just tired ah it. We the women and the pickney dem just tired ah it, because a nuh gunman alone this ah happen to now, it a spread to wi and wi children. None a wi nuh safe and it nuh make nuh sense, it is foolishness because nobody naw guh win but corporate Jamaica and the police. Suh weh di sense!”

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