KINGSTON, Jamaica: Minister of National Security, Senator Dwight Nelson, has said that some gangs in the country have become so powerful they’re now operating franchises.
Nelson said although 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 the 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,” Nelson said at a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) workshop on citizens’ security in the Caribbean.
Nelson 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 per cent of all murders committed in the country.
The national security minister said the gang phenomenon is not confined to Jamaica, as other Caribbean countries are also facing the same problem. Nelson said the gangs are well organized 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 is now worth 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,” said Nelson, adding that any exercise to address law and order has to take into consideration these gang activities.
Nelson said the Caribbean must act to stop gang activity, which is having a negative impact on foreign exchange earnings in legitimate sectors, such as tourism and banking. 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.
“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,” said Nelson. “Accordingly, we must act to address citizens’ security challenges in the Caribbean.”