Police, army form new anti-gang task force

THE leadership of the police and army on Friday revealed that the country has a new joint anti-gang task force and said that after only one week of operation it had reaped success with the seizure of seven illegal firearms, the arrest of 20 people for criminal activities, and the disruption of an illegal alcohol operation that was funding a gang.

Additionally, the task force seized 1,200 pounds of compressed ganja.

“The way the joint task force works, none of these were achieved only by themselves; we work along with the Lottery Scam Task Force, we work with C-TOC [Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigations Branch], and territorial police in the various divisions and areas. It gives them far more capacity when they need it to deal with situations that can become, or are highly violent,” Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson said at the official launch of the task force at the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Specialised Operations Branch Headquarters in Kingston on Friday.

The task force was designed to ensure a safer and more secure future for all Jamaicans and to focus on the dismantling of gangs, which have proven to be the main perpetrators of violent crimes, a news release from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) stated on Friday.

Anderson stressed that the plan to establish the task force began with recruiting enough cops who were trained to work seamlessly with the JDF, as well as in highly volatile environments.

“As part of that we have recruited some 70 young Jamaicans who had gone through the Jamaica National Service Corps. They were highly trained for a year or so as soldiers and then we recruited them and ran them through the entire police training programme. So, these are qualified soldiers, qualified police officers, and they make up part of the task force and are familiar and comfortable with both the military environment and policing environment,” he said.

“We are determined that Jamaican people are going to be safe. We are going to take back these guns that are out there. We are going to put a large dent in this firearms business in Jamaica,” the commissioner added, noting that 90 per cent of murders this year have been committed with illegal firearms.

At the same time, Chief of Defence Staff Rear Admiral Antonette Wemyss Gorman stressed that the intention of the armed forces is to create a safer Jamaica through the joint initiative.

“Imagine a Jamaica where the threat of gangs is not causing you and your children to cower under your beds at night, where there is no extortion, and where children can play freely. There are over 7,000 men and women in the JDF who come from communities just like yours and they want to know that their families are safe when they are working to protect you,” she said.

Wemyss Gorman emphasised that in addition to other methods being employed to address the threats faced by the nation, the joint anti-gang task force will bring focused attention to gangs perpetrating violent crimes across the island.

The new task force comes as the Government increases its thrust to rid the streets of illegal guns and ammunition and arrest people found in possession of them under a monetary reward programme announced on February 4 by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

“The target is to establish $250 million in a fund that will significantly increase the reward for information leading to the recovery of illegal firearms, and even more reward for information provided that leads to the arrest of persons involved with or in possession of illegal firearms,” the prime minister told guests at the official opening of Andrews Mews Health and Recreational Centre on Olympic Way in his St Andrew West Central constituency.

“We’ve started to make arrangements for that provisioning of the fund and we will be asking for private sector support,” he said, adding that the establishment of the fund “will dramatically change the incentive structure, because people know where the guns are. All you have to do is pick up yuh phone and call Crime Stop and you could get anywhere from $250,000 and $500,000, depending on the gun”.