“Klansman is disappearing more and more and what we are seeing is a rise in the confidence and security of consumers and businesses,” said Deputy Police Superintendent Victor Hamilton, one of the commanders in the St Catherine North police division.
“Persons, bus operators and store owners, are breathing a sigh of relief because they can operate their businesses better and safer. That is the feedback we are getting, and we have been getting a lot of praises for it,” Hamilton told the Observer.
According to the police officer, a series of police operations and curfews in the old capital have forced many Klansman gangsters to flee previously safe havens.
At least nine curfews have been implemented in Klansman-controlled communities in Spanish Town since Friday. The curfews encompassed sections of March Pen, Corletts Road, Rivoli, Railway Premises, Dallas Lane, Damhead and Crescent District.
“They (gangsters) have taken to the bushes and river banks,” said Hamilton, noting that the police remain vigilant and committed to maintaining their periodic searches of these areas. Their task is far from easy, however, as thickly vegetated areas abound in St Catherine, the island’s third largest parish.
Earlier this year, divisional head, Superintendent Anthony Castell said that the Klansman gang was crumbling under the pressures of an internal power struggle. The rivalry, he said, resulted in its members fleeing to other parishes.
“Right now, there is no war between them (Klansman) and members of the ‘One Order’ gang (The other major criminal network operating in Spanish Town),” said Castell.
“They are fighting amongst themselves, it is an internal or intra-gang conflict. That is the reason they have shifted their operations to places like Portmore,” he said.
The police theorise that the gang will continue to disintegrate without its leader, Tesha Miller, who was earlier this month sentenced to 15 years in prison for gun-related offences.
Since Miller’s arrest last December, at least seven alleged members of the gang have been killed; five by the security forces and the others by their cronies, police said.
Those killed by the security forces were Donovan Topping, Joel Jennings, otherwise called ‘JJ’; 24-year-old Amal Roman, otherwise called ‘Satan’; and two unidentified men.
Gunmen, in the meantime, shot and killed Jermaine Morrison, alias ‘Speedy’, 31; and a man whom police identified only as ‘Pazzam’. He was among five persons shot dead on January 24, a week before Morrison’s murder.
Their killings have not only fuelled brazen attacks on police personnel in Spanish Town but have also resulted in the murders of several residents, including two women said to be Morrison’s relatives.
While the Klansman gang “implodes”, police say they are keeping a keen watch on their rivals, the ‘One Order’ gang, which they claim is also showing signs of weakening.
“There are persons in the Homestead community (one of the stomping grounds of ‘One Order’ gangsters in St Catherine) who say they are not ‘One Order’ and that they are not taking any orders from ‘One Order’ leadership. So, they have separated from the main group and have called themselves ‘Unity,'” Hamilton said.
“But, what is happening is that some members of ‘Klansman’ are seeking refuge in communities controlled by ‘Unity’ members. And you know that once that happens there is always going to be very serious conflict between the groups,” he said.
Hamilton said that as a result, police presence had also been increased in Homestead, as well as in sections of John’s Road, Tawes Pen, and Elleslie Pen, which are some of the other areas frequented by ‘One Order’ gang members.
While Hamilton declined to say whether the fact that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) — of which ‘One Order’ members are staunch supporters — is currently in power has contributed to the lull in criminal activity by that faction, a recent study by anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle on social violence, has indicated that there may be some merit to that view.
“Our Government is in power. I do not expect any attacks right now. Tivoli is enough,” a young man from a JLP-based community was quoted as saying in Gayle’s study.
President of the St Catherine Chamber of Commerce Dennis Robotham confirmed the claim by the police that life in the old capital had become safer and more comfortable for business owners in the parish.
“There is a distinct decline in extortion. What has happened is that the fellows that would normally target the businesses have grown wary,” Robotham said.
“Ever since the (Tivoli Gardens) incursion, and with the many operations in Spanish Town, extortion has declined. Without question we have to give high marks for the efforts of the police.
“Sometimes their (police) measures seem draconian but one would have to understand exactly what we are up against to fully understand why they have to operate in the way they do,” he said.
On Friday, two operators in the public transportation system also confirmed an increase in comfort and safety inside the Spanish Town Bus Terminal; once the prime feeding ground for Klansman and One Order extortionists.
“Extortion? It not so bad like one time. Now you can eat a food,” said a taxi driver who plies the route between Spanish Town and Linstead, also in St Catherine.
“You just have to pay your $150 for the day in the office and you good. Is not like one time when the boy them use to full up out here,” he said.
A minibus operator who plies the Old Harbour route offered: “Apart from the loader-men (touts) who pressure you for money on every trip, we good. Is just dem alone come in like ticks out here.”
But things were not as kosher for one taxi driver who operates from a service station at the intersection of Young Street and Burke Road.
According to him, extortion is still rampant in that area, where thugs demand upwards of $200 per day from taxi operators.
“Police don’t know what they are talking about. Maybe in the bus park which is gated they don’t have that problem, but out here they make life miserable,” he said.
“Every day dem (extortionists) out here; we can’t work in peace… and they come from both Klansman and One Order,” he said.