KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica’s Assistant Commissioner of Police Justin Felice wants to see a copy of a report by Jamaican anthropologist Dr. Herbert Gayle to determine the extent to which wealthy Jamaicans are funding criminal activities throughout the country.
ACP Felice, who is in charge of the anti-corruption unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, said his job is to target all members of criminal groups and organisations regardless of their social backgrounds.
“Whether they are from the upper class or middle class, once they are involved in illegal or corrupt activities, they will be targeted and treated in the same way we would anyone from a different background,” Felice said.
He noted that the report was necessary for him to see what Gayle is basing his findings on.
Based on his research, Mr. Gayle has concluded that the nation’s gun crimes, and to a greater extent crime problems, stem from the inability of the nation to be honest with itself.
The anthropologist, who specialises in violence, has done extensive work and research with at least 12 gangs across 40 inner-city communities.He says his work with young men involved in small gangs often reveals the names of very influential and wealthy Jamaicans who have assisted them in obtaining weapons.
However, Mr. Gayle says Jamaica is still suffering from a class-prejudiced mind frame which often lays the blame for gun crimes on the inner city.
“Our system of class is so sharp, that is why I have always maintained, and, in fact, the findings from my work show the same thing and my experience working with these people show the same thing, (that) people who have money in this country, their degree of corruption is at a different level.”
Mr. Gayle believes that, in looking at crime in the country, a new approach will have to be taken to also include the affluent sections of the society.
“We spend a lot of time focusing on inner-city people. Our focus when it comes to handguns and crime and murders and all of these things are downtown, and yet these things cost enormous amounts of money, and they also cost enormous amounts of cooperation between uptown and downtown.”
Analysis of the 2007 crime statistics show that the brutal use of the gun is often evident in marginalised and poverty stricken communities.
St Andrew South which is made up of the crime hot spots of Olympic Gardens, Waterhouse, Marverley, Maxfield Avenue and Payne Avenue was the murder capital of the metropolitan area and, by extension, the island with 209 murders.
This was followed by St Catherine North with 164 murders and which is known for problem communities in the Spanish Town area such as Tawes Pen and De La Vega City.
Mr. Gayle stresses that all of Jamaica needs to take responsibility for the gun crisis on the streets and he believes that should start in the powerful echelons of the society.
“We have to begin from a point of recognising and saying look, this is not a downtown problem, it is a Jamaica problem, and we have to get to the point where we begin to acknowledge what is really happening, that a lot of us across the country are involved in organised crime in this country.”
Social worker Patrice Samuels concurs with Mr. Gayle. Samuels who has worked with youth-related gangs in several inner-city communities says the names of wealthy businessmen have been trumpeted by their members, who they say provide assistance in their illegal escapades.
“If you think about it, a man on the gullyside cannot afford a tin of mackerel to feed himself, yet he has these guns which cost between US$3,000 and US5,000. We should look at who has access to the ports to shut down machines to get guns in; it is not the poor man on the corner.”
Felice said he is aware that in any criminal organisation there are clear links between the upper class and the inner cities.
“I am quite aware that the tentacles of many criminal networks reach far and wide, but this is not unique to Jamaica,” he said.