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An alternative to 'iron fist' policing/Una alternativa a la vigilancia policial de 'puno de hierro'/Une alternative a la police au "poing en fer".


Defence crews are phenomena common to low-income inner-city communities. The product of partisan political conflict, but not criminally oriented, they differ from both other corner crews and from criminal gangs. Even among criminal gang members, significant numbers show an interest in legal alternative livelihoods. For all these groups, community is the imbedding matrix where the repressive strategy pursued by the police is ineffective. Community policing is needed, which also asserts state authority. Pockets of non-government 'best practices' have demonstrated the potential of a preventive strategy for reducing murder and shooting.

Los grupos de defensa son fenomenos comunes para las comunidades de barrios de bajos ingresos. Se diferencian de otros grupos de esquina y de las bandas criminales por ser producto del conflicto politico partidista y no de orientacion criminal. Incluso entre los miembros de las bandas de delincuentes, hay un numero importante de ellos que manifiestan su interes en buscar medios alternativos de subsistencia legales. Para todos estos grupos, la comunidad es la matriz integradora donde la estrategia represiva de la policia es ineficaz. La vigilancia policial comunitaria es necesaria, y tambien afirma la autoridad del Estado. Ha habido acciones no gubernamentales de 'buenas practicas' que han demostrado el potencial de una estrategia preventiva para reducir la incidencia de asesinatos y disparos.

Les bandes de defense sont des phenomenes communs dans les quartiers pauvres du centre-ville. Produits d'un conflit politique partisan, mais non criminellement orientes, ils different des autres bandes de coin et des gangs criminels. Meme parmi les membres des gangs criminels, un nombre significatif montrent un interet pour les moyens alternatifs et legitimes de subsistance. Pour tous ces groupes, le quartier est la matrice de plongement ou la strategie repressive menee par la police est inefficace. La police de proximite est necessaire et affirme egalement l'autorite de l'Etat. Des poches des <<meilleures pratiques>> non gouvernementales ont demontre le potentiel d'une strategie preventive pour reduire les meurtres et les fusillades.


This paper sets out the findings of a study of the links between organised crime and youth violence in Kingston and Spanish Town, Jamaica, and suggests how this violence should be handled. The details are Jamaican, but the issue is one that has regional parallels, particularly in Trinidad and Tobago, and in South and Central America, where, even in democracies (Holston 2008; Levy 2013), (1) sub-national civic violence is a regular occurrence. The findings and recommendations of the study may therefore be of some interest beyond Jamaican shores.

The study, entitled 'Youth Violence and Organized Crime in Jamaica: Causes and Counter-Measures', began in early 2011. This was several months after the Government, in June 2010, legislated stiff detention and denial of bail to try to address the country's high crime and murder rate. The denial of bail law (for those detained but yet to be charged) had to be abandoned when it came up for renewal the following year, as it contravened the Constitution. (2) The Government nevertheless proposed, and began drafting, stern antigang legislation.

The immediate background to these steps was the removal of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke--for extradition to the United States--from his defiant, blockaded base in the inner city, West Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens (Samuels 2011). A security force operation in May 2010, that cost the lives of eighty-one civilians and one soldier, forced Coke out of Tivoli Gardens and into hiding. He was caught the following month and extradited. The Tivoli operation was followed by curfews, heightened policing (4,495 more motorized patrols and 960 more curfews over a six-month period) and repressive actions across depressed, lower income sections of the city. The homicide rate dropped by about 30 percent from five murders per day some months in 2009, to three per day over the three and a half years that followed May 2010 (from sixty-three to forty-one murders per 100,000).

Prior to May 2010, there was serious concern that organized crime threatened, or was actually exerting, an extremely dangerous level of influence on the state. This concern, though going back many years, was heightened by the Government's nine month long resistance to the U.S. request for the extradition of Dudus Coke. Tivoli Gardens was a stronghold of the Jamaica Labour Party, the party in government, and it formed part of the constituency represented by Prime Minister Golding. The danger from organised crime appears to have receded with the removal of Dudus Coke. Yet the persistent failure of the state, three years later, to make progress in its broad contest with murderous criminals has left the current Minister of National Security wanting still more weapons and more vehicles for more police. He has voiced keen disappointment over not having these resources.

April to June 2013 brought all these contextual issues to the front page again. The Public Defender finally handed in what he called the Interim Report to Parliament (Office of the Public Defender 2013), a report long demanded by civil society. He said he was investigating, as extra-judicial killings, forty-four of the eighty-one civilian deaths in the Tivoli Gardens operation, and he called for a Commission of Enquiry that the Government, soon afterwards, declared its intention of establishing. In a further unusual step, perhaps in response to civil society prodding, the Ministry of Justice began canvassing the views of the public on the terms of reference of the Commission. Almost simultaneously, the Minister of National Security was tabling in Parliament the long proposed, redrafted anti-gang legislation. It has stirred intense discussion, not only in the public domain, but also inside the ruling party itself.


It was against the backdrop of the Tivoli event, and of what followed, that the study project proceeded over 20 months, concluding in October 2012. The research question was whether the 'iron fist' (mano dura) strategy was the best way to tackle longstanding high crime rates, especially homicide. (It combined repressive measures on the ground with harsh pieces of legislation and a proposed tough anti-gang law). Could this approach really counter the enveloping "culture" or a "sub-culture" of violence (Harriott 2008a), such as the three, four, or six killings at a time; victims beheaded or torched; very young children and helpless elderly among the slain; the frequent triviality of the provocation? Could research uncover, with a view to influencing policy, a solid data-supported basis for an alternative? This was the rationale for the study project.

Employing Participatory Learning and Action qualitative methodology, the research team carried out focus groups and interviews with key informants to engage directly with gangs and crews in communities. The team comprised members of the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), the Violence Prevention Alliance and the Institute of Criminal Justice and Security (ICJS) (3) of the University of the West Indies. The study was conducted under the aegis of the last mentioned. The area of the research was sections of Kingston and Spanish Town.


The findings of the study are straightforward and easily grasped on one level. However, it is less easy to appreciate their full significance and implications. I will attempt to guide the reader to the latter.

Here first are the main findings:

1) In Kingston and Spanish Town inner city communities, there are groups that could be called 'defence crews', that differ from both other 'corner crews' and from criminal gangs. The police view that defence crews graduate into higher level criminal gangs was not substantiated as the general pattern. Only one instance of graduation was uncovered, and it was subsequently reversed.

2) Members of criminal gangs, in significant numbers, showed openness to some alternative way of life. The implication is the critical potential for blocking pathways to criminality and to violence, when a community environment offers opportunities and positive avenues to normal livelihoods.

3) Community is the matrix sustaining the birth, activities and continuance of defence crews and criminal gangs and their relationship with the security forces and the wider society. It is home also to most of the individuals and crews outside of criminal gangs, who account for perhaps half of the murders committed. There can be no solution to the large numbers of murders and the omnivorous violence that does not give priority to community development.

Defence Crew

The big issue here is whether a crew having and using unlicensed guns can be anything but a criminal gang. The question does not arise for the police. It is counter-intuitive. To most people it would also appear stupid to even ask the question. Having and using unlicensed guns is an illegal act, a crime, which, in the general opinion, would make the crew a criminal gang and identify its members as criminals. One aim of the current anti-gang legislation, it appears, is to lump both crews and gangs in that same gang category and so give them both the same tough treatment.

On the other hand, for those who carried out the study behind this paper, it is not automatic that a crew, because of its possession of firearms, can be deemed and labelled a criminal gang. There are other important criteria deserving of consideration. Along with the criminal activity indicated, differences in purpose, behaviour and structure between crew and gang also show up. Further, the clear import of the community context in which these groups have arisen and operate, gives salience to these differences and raises the question of how the groups are to be treated. Their special character cannot be ignored or denied. Let us consider the evidence.

Corner crews are an accepted part of inner city community life. According to inner city residents, there are "domino crews, football crews, music crews, money crews, chill out crews, bingo crews, church crews, chat people crews and mix up crews". "Crew just hang out and have fun, go dance, run joke and smoke weed [=marijuana]".

Distinguishable from these crews are the community 'defenders'. (4) These are young men who take upon themselves the task of protecting and defending the community, or a section of a community, against attack from a rival community or section. This group is set apart by the task of protecting the community and by having and using guns to carry out its job. It is usually in times of 'war', that this group is noticed as distinct from other crews. As one woman put it, "Once there is no war ..., it seems as if there is no gangster in the community." Outside of 'war' the defence crew disappears into the woodwork, it becomes dormant, virtually nonexistent. The guns are buried.

This last point is very important for bringing out the difference between the defence crew and the criminal gang. The latter has continuity, and this is because, as an essential feature of its makeup, it has organisation. Crews, including those for defence, lack organisation and structure. Crews are held together by common interests, usually that of urgent protection, as well as by the personality of one or two more determined members who keep them going or allow them to dissolve.

This difference points to the deeper one of purpose. Defence crews lack the criminal gang's objective of enriching its members through their illegal activity, or gaining power or influence. This difference in orientation is fundamental. It shows up in the willingness of crew members, like those of other crews, to seek and engage in hard work. For example, members of crews from August Town laid down the Usain Bolt running track on the University of West Indies campus, or have laboured in constructing its buildings. The behaviour of criminals, on the other hand, is to show up on a building site to collect money for work not done.

Defence crews, it must also be recognised, are generally welcome in their communities for their protective role. Defence is a community thing. Women, in particular, play a positive supportive role for defence crews, helping in community defence by warning of the movements of police and rival groups, giving crew members hiding places, and seeing to their food and clothing needs when they end up behind bars. Sometimes a mother has been known to push a son to seek reprisal for a brother lost in a 'war'. More often, the partners of defence crew members urge them, mostly unsuccessfully, to put down the gun and stop the warring. In spite of inner city machismo, the role of women in inner-city community bonding, as in all social capital, is a central one.

It cannot be denied that community people do, at times, defend and protect real criminals against police attempts to apprehend them. Sometimes defence crews include an individual criminal. Sometimes they are guilty of petty thieving, or even of more serious robbery. These factors are usually marginal to their main thrust, however. Fundamental and undeniable for understanding defence crews is the fact that they are embedded in their communities. Security forces that do not have the community on their side have no possibility of succeeding. War cannot be waged, against communities. Yet this is what legislation that criminalises defence crews is, in effect, seeking to do.

Political Origins, Community Matrix

The question that many readers will be asking, however, is about the need for community defence: how did it come about in the first place? Shouldn't people rely on the police for protection? Without going into an extensive account, I would single out, briefly, two historical sources or causes. The first was that the two leading political parties, the Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party, in their pursuit of power, which they elevated above good policy, aligned communities behind the parties and against each other.

The political parties incorporated, as Amanda Sives (2010) has carefully chronicled, the use of weapons of violence during election contests. The mid 1960s escalated this process to a new and deadly level, with the formation and arming of the first garrison, Tivoli Gardens, by Jamaica Labour Party representatives. Coming to power in 1972, the rival People's National Party copied and expanded the model. The formation, political functions and structure of garrisons have been the subject of extensive study and writing (Chevannes 1992; Figueroa 1994, 2008; Levy 2009; Report of the National Committee on Political Tribalism 1997).

The second source or cause was police neglect of the inner city communities, part of the general social exclusion that was the experience of the inner city and of the garrisons. They were useful tools in electoral contests, but were otherwise assigned third-class status. The situation in regard to the police has been reversed over the past three years, but the previous pattern is described by a resident thus: "De police nah take action when certain harms a take [something harmful is taking] place; because of that lack of action dem yute [youth] take it pon themselves to defend the community. For years the police would wait till 4-5 people get killed and then show up."

It was in this box of community divided against community by political allegiance, that from the 1960s, and through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Jamaican inner city youth were born and raised. Many knew nothing else. Gradually disillusioned by political party self-interest, it is only in the last decade that they have lost willingness to shed blood for parties, turning instead to turf wars within their own communities in the continuing pursuit of the identity formerly tied to that of a political party (Harriott 2008b). None of this is being put forward, of course, in defence of defence crews, or to attempt to legitimise their conduct. The point is to acknowledge their existence as the product of a certain brand of politics and to recognise this politics as the source of most of the violence in Jamaica.

One incidental but noteworthy point that this bit of history makes is that the violence in Jamaica is not genetic. It is not derived from a gene inherited from a war-loving African ancestor. While there were beginnings from as early as 1944 (Sives 2010), the pattern of murder and violence we see now did not exist before 1962, Jamaica's year of Independence. It is a product progressively accumulated over five decades and its principal sources, the two political parties just indicated, are not a secret. Jamaica is a place of heavy contradictions. One of them is that it is home to murder and violence and to innumerable Christian churches, Bob Marley, and the century's acclaimed song of love.

Along with this background explaining the presence of defence crews, must go a brief description of the community matrix, in which I have said they are imbedded, and which also says a great deal about them. Bonding among people in an inner city community, in spite of (or perhaps, in part, because of) the depressed conditions, is a basic feature of these communities (Levy 2009). It explains the constant and considerable source of enjoyment that the community affords its members. The many corner crews listed earlier are one expression of this. It is the reason why banishment from a community for a period has been given, on occasion, as a penalty for even the serious crime of sexual assault. There is a strong sense of communal feeling and sharing, which is something unknown to middle class 'outer city' communities. Households there are more closed off from one another, residential location less important than outside special interests, and northern urban life styles have interrupted the influence of an African heritage.

To inner city people, however, community is extremely important. It occupies a central place in their lives, especially for the defence crews. This communal setting is what underlies the general acceptance and approval of the community's defence crew, whose members are the sons, nephews, cousins, and 'grans' of older heads, and where these kinship relations and the individuals are known to everyone. It is what holds together, on the streets, street-sides and playgrounds, the mingling and interaction of young people with a range of interests in a variety of recreational, sport and other social activities. It is this intermingling and open intercourse, which on the other hand, also leads to the person responsible for a particular crime being quickly and widely known.

It is this decades-old interaction, which in turn, as indicated in interviewees' comments, makes it difficult for people in general to easily articulate the difference between a crew and a gang. In any case, most people don't think and talk definitions. Ask them what is a gang and they give you concrete cases--Dudus' gang, or the earlier Rat Bat gang--and list their crimes of rape, robbery, extortion, assassination, gun and drug trading. These crimes are not attributed to defence crews. This is why community people will sometimes call their members "gangsters", but never "criminals".

Criminal Gangs ... and Central Authority

Turning now to the second finding, a serendipitous revelation for the researchers was the possibility of criminal gang members, in significant numbers, transitioning into an alternative and legal way of life. This extraordinary datum emerged from interviews with the members of six gangs, regarded by both police and criminologists, as seriously criminal groups. The data made the point clearly: the openness, indeed explicit desire, of some members for legitimate employment of some kind.

Cynically, the police rubbish the seriousness of such interest on the part of gang members. They argue that it is no more than an effort to escape, for a while, the pressures placed on them by the police in the wake of the security 'incursion' in Tivoli. It is a point that cannot be ignored. The change in their image that some gangs also wanted was, indeed, partly for protection from police action. The Rat Bat gang has already renamed itself Progressive Youth. It would be naive to believe that all gang members have suddenly been converted away from their previous criminal conduct. The study makes no such claim. Evidence to the contrary is stark.

Establishing whether, in specific cases, there is a genuine interest in a legal lifestyle on the part of some gang members, would require testing by the real response to opportunities offered on the ground. This was, of course, beyond the scope of the study. In the Rat Bat instance, some evidence of genuineness does, however, already exist in the legitimate, income-earning, own-account projects undertaken on their own initiative--raising pigs, tying steel under contract, building and operating a shop and bar. These efforts cannot be ignored. The group went further. It opened itself to a visit, interviews, photographs and a full-page article by a team from the Gleaner, the country's leading newspaper (Brooks 2012). This gang holds particular interest because it had at one stage 'graduated' from the status of crew into a fully-fledged criminal gang. Subsequently, under different leadership, we have seen the initiatives just described.

It is the broad implication for the generality of cases that is the object of greatest interest here. This is the question of the possibility that much criminality and gang formation can be headed off by the provision of a helpful environment. A start toward the fashioning of an environment of that kind was offered, it is argued, with the exit of Dudus Coke from Tivoli Gardens. A huge opportunity opened up to create a city free from garrisons and all that they stood for. That opportunity was squandered, if one considers the state of Tivoli and neighbouring Denham Town today. The open-ended situation has crystallised into four gangs mutually hostile and at war with one another, and a high level of homicide and robbery.

But what were the positive elements that created that opportunity, that opening, in the first place, and are these elements that could be employed again? Or, listening to all sides, was it precisely the harsh and oppressive measures that must be given the credit for any positive outcomes?

Paradoxically, the opening emerged with the state's assertion of its authority. This assertion was the constructive aspect of the security forces operation in Tivoli Gardens and follow-up measures. State authority had been long missing, allowing a bad situation to fester. Here it was at last, insisting on the rule of law, and a constabulary and military firmly enforcing it. This was the universal verdict across the inner city, coinciding with the view of many in the wider society--Tivoli's 'above-the-law' status 'had to be ended'. The security forces 'had to bring a level of order'. No virtual 'state within the state, which is how Tivoli Gardens was generally regarded, should be allowed.

The effect of Tivoli 'incursion' and follow-up was the abrupt termination of Tivoli's impunity, and also of the feeling of impunity across the wider city. The instant reaction was: if it could happen to Tivoli, then nowhere else was safe. And this meant not only criminal gangs, but defence crews also, in their free use of guns. The impunity that Tivoli enjoyed had exposed a serious weakness in the State--its failure to assert authority where required, through deployment of the security forces. Apart from providing a hiding place for persons wanted by the police, the impunity of Tivoli Gardens encouraged emulation by others, in other ways. So the influence exercised by Tivoli Gardens and its gang was, above all, a matter of example, though from information outside the study, Dudus was also known to have had direct influence on a few other noteworthy communities.

The effect of the forceful application of old laws and new measures was much wider than making youth fearful of congregating on a corner. It carried the powerful psychological message that the country's laws were there to be observed, that they applied everywhere, and that the police were the ones now in control. Shootings and murders declined, in some instances, quite dramatically. According to one elderly man, on his street in upper Whitfield Town, the shooting (by what appeared to be defence crews) stopped the very day of the incursion into Tivoli. A long flourishing sense of impunity that allowed the youth with weapons to fire them as they pleased, and to engage in war with neighbouring groups, evaporated overnight. According to a Top Penwood man in Waterhouse, "Tivoli shake up all garrison. Garrison dying after Tivoli."

The recognition of this authority in inner city communities was shown in:

(a) the increased acceptance of the role of the police as the agent of the central authority of the state, even if this role was exercised too frequently in an oppressive and unjust way; and

(b) the new freedom of ordinary citizens to pass information to the police, indeed a 'surge in popularity', as one informant put it, in doing so.

It was encouraged, in part, by the Jamaica Constabulary Force cracking down on its lower level members, with a resulting decline in their brazenness in visiting gang leaders and their headquarters. In turn, this led to reduced sales of guns and ammunition, which was also an effect of the removal of Dudus Coke.

It may appear paradoxical, but what the assertion of authority conveyed too was interest in the inner city, and some level of concern for its condition on the part of the state (and the state includes not only the government and security forces, but also the wider society). It suggested that, perhaps, something positive was going to happen. The crackdown on Tivoli and its crime links was itself something positive and welcomed. To this the inner city as a whole was ready to give its cooperation, especially because it came at a time of the lowest level of inter-party rivalry in decades.

The source of feuding in Middle East societies, which is very similar to our inner-city inter-party conflicts, has been found to be the state's weak exercise of authority in situations of economic scarcity (Gayle 2007, 2010). The reversal of that weakness could be read as also signalling a change in economic fortunes.

A Strategy of Repression

The dampener on any such hope was the strategy of repression that accompanied the assertion of authority, the mano dura to which the research was seeking a data-based alternative. The judgment is universal that the way the security forces operation was done was brutal in the extreme, and could not be justified. The security forces and their actions were described variously as 'gone overboard'; 'too drastic'; 'a violation of rights to declare war on a residential community'; 'massacre'; 'genocide'. The substance in these judgments is now confirmed by the Public Defender's Report (Office of the Public Defender 2013).

The behaviour of the security forces in Tivoli was only the beginning. With no reproof of that conduct, in fact, only praise, the police apparently felt free to continue along the same path. Fatalities by the police rose to 200-plus annually, which is presently equivalent to more than 20 percent of all homicides. This, despite the fact that, for two years, 2011-2012, not a single police person was killed in the line of duty. (5) Police are said to describe themselves as 'the bad man' on the corner now, and youth as 'having no say'. Youth complain, "we feel like fugitive in our own community." The general comment is that treatment by police after the incursion is worse than it was before.

One of the many measures introduced by the police on a frequent and wide- scale basis after the Tivoli 'incursion' was the naming in the national media of 'persons of interest'. Their names were added to those already on a 'Wanted' list and they were summoned to the nearest police station as 'suspected' by the police of a crime. Most of those so named turned up at a police station, only to be released after a lengthy period of detention for want of any evidence to support a charge against them. The damage to their reputations was, however, already done. All this in a society where the naming of suspects, especially if middle and upper class people are involved, is just not done.

Along with the other measures already listed, this one had, for a while, the desired effect: fear. As a Rockfort (east Kingston) youth put it: "Everybody in the community is afraid of the security forces ... Nobody want to be a don anymore, only some idiot ..." Top Penwood men spoke of looking for a 'community leader', not a don. Their man in that position was abducted and is assumed to have been killed. A police death squad is known to exist.

The repression also carried an economic dimension. One such repressive measure was the regular refusal of permits for night dances where, in addition to those providing the music, vendors did good business selling peanut porridge, fried fish, and beer. Another was the seizure and scrapping of vendors' pushcarts (which destroyed items of legitimate business), and the prevention of sidewalk vending. These measures were particularly hard on people living in garrisons who were now paying for the accommodation, water and electricity that, previously, they had received free. Young girls were reported to be begging more, and in one area, were selling sex for as little as JA$100 (US$1). The men for their part were more resentful: "Wi think wi did hate police but a now wi hate dem."

The critical question in respect of this approach must be about its effect. According to police statistics, all major crimes except robbery and homicide, have significantly declined. After the initial drop immediately following the Tivoli Gardens operation, homicide, as indicated earlier, remained flat at an average three a day up to December 31, 2013. Of course there were fluctuations in the rate--a decline in December 2013, for instance--that led the Minister of National Security to believe, and state publicly, that there was progress.

But the iron fist approach, with all its hoopla, has been a failure. Temporary police posts that become semi-permanent, extra-judicial killings by masked police, summonses to persons of interest, and lengthy detentions without bringing charges--these and all the other oppressive steps have simply not worked. Given that pattern, the enactment of a tough new anti-gang law, even if it keeps its teeth in the face of public criticism, is hardly going to make any difference. Talk of more police, more vehicles and more police posts gives every indication of being just talk. Financial constraints are, however, what rule them out, not policy choice.


Which direction the country moves in, relative to murder and violence, is likely to hinge on the ability to address the roots of the problem, which will not be touched by more boots on the ground or in vehicles. What are those roots?

Violence and homicide have been found by sociologists for many years to be correlated with income inequality (Braithwaite 1979, Gilligan 2001).6 It is not accidental, then, that the Caribbean, along with Latin America, is the region with the highest level of both income inequality and crime in the world (UNDP 2012). In Jamaica's case, "the top 10 per cent [of the population] accounted for 30.7 percent of national consumption compared with the bottom 10 percent's 2.5 percent" (PIOJ/STATIN 2012, 2.6). With unemployment at a high 16 percent, nearly two and a half times higher for young people, and nearly 20 percent of the population below the poverty line - 17.6 in 2010 and rising (ibid. 2.9), inequality is real and, in a small island, also very visible.

James Gilligan (2001) argues powerfully that inequality leads to violence because of the disrespect and shaming that it conveys. Those who have experienced only harsh treatment and deprivation resort to violence as the only available route to ending the disrespect being inflicted on them. Because of their history, Jamaican poor people look for, and deeply appreciate, respect. 'Respect' is a common salute and parting word in the inner city. A large majority of the people there are black and the descendants of the enslaved, something they are far from forgetting.

This is not to say that awareness of that history, or of an existing racism, directly provokes today's violence. Among the black poor, there is presently no strong perception of racist ill treatment. This is because racism is not for the most part overt. Identification with blackness is far more subtle (Thomas 2004). Black people do not experience open discrimination in public services. Much less visible in finance and business, Blacks occupy, at the same time, the highest professional, academic and political positions in the country.

The fact is, however, that the class line separating the middle and upper classes from the poorer class coincides to a large extent with race--those in the middle and upper classes being mostly brown and white respectively. The fact is that racism is interwoven into the Jamaican social fabric. One striking example is the country's two-tier education system--children of the black poor attending schools publicly classified as second class. Another is skin 'bleaching' by some Blacks to get the lighter colour that is seen as improving mating and employment opportunities. Today's violence can be tracked back to historical slavery, not so much in its example of slave master violence, as in the continued shaming embedded in a 'raced class' structure. Such shaming generally ignites a violent response, in this instance, however, not against upper class/other race persons, but in attacks on peers, indirectly in response to and contempt of the overall structure.

Mano dura does not address the inequality and disrespect that are sources of violence and crime. It has been tried in several Central American states, proved a failure, and is now being modified. Going, on the other hand, to the root of the problem of crime and violence are the 'best practices' that the study also describes at some length. The impact of these practices demonstrates clearly that there is an effective and practicable alternative to the state's mano dura approach. They include, as a sample, Children First in Spanish Town, and in Kingston, the Peace Management Initiative, S-Corner Clinic, Sistren Theatre Collective, and a YMCA programme. And there are other examples of practices that offer inner city youth and adults the cultural, recreational and occupational activities and the respect denied them by social exclusion.

Rather than a focus on attacking gangs, the alternative proposed would combine community policing with community people development, the firm assertion of the central authority of the state along with an end to present social exclusion. This is the way to re-create the opening that the removal of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke offered and that was squandered. The need for it is urgent, given the pressures exerted by current economic hardship, which is the result of global and local recession, and the measures contracting the economy as required by the current agreement with the International Monetary Fund.


The study recommended the following:

* Resources being made available to 'best practices', both the five sketched in the study, and others as assessed, as well as to the

--Community Renewal Programme (CRP) and to some of their components in particular. Among those components are the CRP's promotion of Parish Development Committees, which organise and channel community inputs into Parish Councils, and the

--PMI's 'registry' of high-risk youth, which would be an integrated management system that shares data from prisons, courts, police, school and the community. These steps would go a long way toward reducing the risk factors pushing youth into violent activity.

* A number of other programmes such as restorative justice promoted by the Dispute Resolution Foundation and, very recently, by the Ministry of Justice;

--educational enrichment programmes employing behaviour-change strategies for inner city teenagers failing in school, to ensure literacy and skills and to give special attention to the vulnerability of girls;

--women empowerment programmes that support their efforts toward economic independence, while engaging them in community building, peacebuilding and leadership, where they can play a critical part in stopping reprisals; and

--research on violence within families, given the prevalence of domestic conflicts, the role of large kinship ties in small low-income communities, and the occurrence of family feuds that then spill over into wider community violence.

* Strengthening of police accountability, including directly to communities, through a fostering of cooperation between citizens and police, in order to put an end to repressive police measures, especially extra-judicial killings;

--special transition measures, worked out for the communities of western Kingston, in consultation with 'Best Practice' agencies and with the police.

* Sensitivity on the part of any anti-gang legislation to the reality of corner crews and defence crews, perhaps by recognition of defence crews in a formal classification of gangs.

* An end to state funding of criminal gangs and organised crime through government contracts and subcontracts; and, most obviously,

* Major improvement in the court system to reduce the delays and poor conviction rates that frustrate the police and give impunity to criminals. This could be done by a larger budget allocation to the Ministry of Justice, which receives only just over $4 billion dollars, compared to the over $40 billion to the Ministry of National Security.

The conclusion reached in a publication by a Small Arms Survey (Rodgers, Muggah, and Stevenson 2009) on anti-gang efforts in Central America may well apply, even if not in exactly the same way, to Jamaica:
   Many Central American governments appear to be using their highly
   publicized crackdowns on gangs to avoid taking action on key issues
   such as exclusion, inequality, and the lack of job creation. In
   other words, gangs have become convenient scapegoats on which to
   blame the region's problems and through which those in power
   attempt to maintain a particular status quo.


Braithwaite, John. 1979. Inequality, Crime and Public Policy. Boston, Mass. & London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

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(1) Because democracy excludes violence, wars between democracies have not been taking place. Violence continues, however, within democracy, probably because it has not been extended to every major aspect.

(2) The denial of entitlement to bail (constitutionally guaranteed) for a period of 60-days pre-charge.

(3) The Peace Management Initiative was established in 2002 by a Minister of National Security for the purpose of defusing community violence, in which it has been quite effective. While still funded by that ministry, it is now an independent non-government organisation. The Violence Protection Alliance, a chapter of the international body by the same name, is a broad coalition of entities working in a variety of ways to curb violence. The Institute of Criminal Justice and Security is a research-dedicated arm of the Caribbean-wide University of the West Indies.

(4) The naming was not arbitrary. Although no agreed name was everywhere used, similar terms were variously employed--'community security', 'community watch', 'good garrison', 'community defenders'.

(5) 2013 has brought, however, one police killing a month so far, returning to a previous pattern.

(6) According to Gilligan "Some three dozen studies at least have found statistically significant correlations between the degree of absolute as well as relative poverty and the incidence of homicide." Gilligan refers also to a meta-analysis in 1993 of thirty-four such studies that found strong statistical support for these findings.
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Author:Levy, Horace
Publication:Social and Economic Studies
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:5JAMA
Date:Jun 1, 2015
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