Gangs operating franchises in Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica, January 29, 2010 – Jamaica’s Minister of National Security, Senator Dwight Nelson, has revealed that some gangs in the country have become so powerful they’re now operating franchises.

And he said while the impending anti-gang legislation, scheduled to go before Parliament by March, could be perceived as draconian it is necessary to cut down the growth of these illegal groups.

“A gang will be domiciled in a particular territory and it franchises out its operation, giving groups in other areas the right to operate under its name,” he revealed at a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) workshop on citizens’ security in the Caribbean which Jamaica is hosting.

The Minister said the anti-gang legislation is aimed at curbing the activities of Jamaica’s approximately 286 known gangs which he said are responsible for about 64 percent of all murders committed in the country.

He pointed out that the gang phenomenon is not confined to Jamaica, as other Caribbean countries are also facing the same problem, with Trinidad and Tobago having about 86 gangs and Guyana, 40. He said these gangs are well organised and sophisticated, and are involved in activities, such as drug smuggling, human trafficking, gun smuggling and money laundering.

Nelson noted that drug trafficking has taken on “massive proportions” and that the trade now values more than US$5 billion, exceeding the value of all legitimate Caribbean exports.

“Analyses carried out by researchers suggest that the growing presence of the narco-economy, now the largest merchandise exporting sector in the region, lurks underneath the Caribbean’s crime and social reality,” he said, adding that any exercise to address law and order has to take into consideration these gang activities.

The National Security Minister said the Caribbean must act to arrest this phenomenon, as it is having a negative impact on foreign exchange earnings in legitimate sectors, such as tourism and banking, which is being tarnished by money-laundering activities. The increasing activities of gangs also pose a threat to the region’s ability to garner foreign aid, while also negatively affecting diplomatic relationships, he said.

“This behoves us to act with dispatch. There can be no doubt that the issue of citizens’ security has emerged as a significant challenge to good governance and human development in the Caribbean region. Accordingly, we must act to address citizens’ security challenges in the Caribbean,” Nelson said.

The UNDP workshop, titled ‘Charting the Way Forward for the Preparation of the Caribbean Regional Human Development Report on Citizens’ Security’, ends today. It aims to engage stakeholders in initial discussion on the challenges related to the preparation of the 2010 report, and identify the potential methodology and strategy to be followed throughout the process. This is the first time that a Human Development Report is being prepared in the Caribbean.