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THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GANG ACTIVITY AND SOCIAL INJUSTICE

IN THE CARIBBEAN

Grade 65%
By Cornelius, Collin, Christine, Ann [cookspringer@yahoo.com] Richard ( I had to
search for this and insert it) full name and UWI ID
INTRODUCTION

The phenomenon of gang activity in the Caribbean has impacted greatly on the society.

This level of activity has been shown in the rise of crime and violence throughout the

region. The gangs impact communities either through fear of them or by victimization

from their crimes. Nowadays, gangs in the Caribbean are acting like the mafia; it is

becoming frightening to see how gang violence has escalated within the last decade.

Jamaica was the only Caribbean island that was usually associated with gang violence.

But with the explosion of the media revolution one is now aware that gang violence is

seriously affecting the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas, St. Vincent and the

Grenadines and Barbados are under siege due to rise in crime and violence. Gang

violence is linked with other criminal activities such as drugs, larceny, rape and

homicide. The concept “One ring to rule them all,” from the trilogy “Lord of Rings”

shows that the one who controls the ring has ultimate power. This way of operating is

reflective of the gangs operating within some of the Caribbean. In light of these issues,

this project attempts to show the relationship between gang activity and social injustice in

the Caribbean with special focus on Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.

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METHODOLOGY

This methodology is largely inductive because it is utilizing literature sourced from the

University of the West Indies, St Augustine; a research paper from the Criminology and

Social Psychology Department by Roy D McCree; internet sources “Into the Abyss” by

Mike Carlie; newspaper clippings from the Trinidad Guardian, Newsday, Jamaican

Observer, The Jamaican Gleaner, and Caribbean Network News. Two informal

interviews were done by two of the group members with three young persons from the

Gonzales community.

DEFINITION OF GANGS

According to Roy D. McCree: “The term ‘gang’ has been used and bandied about in the

local media without any clear idea as to its meaning. In this paper, a “gang” refers to a

particular group of individuals or a collectivity possessing some common aims and

values, which might be formally as well as informally organized to engage in certain

activities which can be deemed illegal or unlawful. With such usage, the term ‘gang’

deviates from the conventional and stereotypical meaning- groups of individuals who

operate mainly on the “streets” or in the public domain- and also include those who

operate within the formal and legitimate occupational structure be it in the public or

private sector together with the elite in the society.”1 The FBI also defines a gang as “a

criminal enterprise having an organizational structure acting as a continuing criminal

conspiracy, which employs violence and other criminal activity to sustain the

enterprise.”2
1
Roy D McCree. “Violence: A Preliminary Look at Gangs in Trinidad and Tobago” Caribbean Journal of
Criminology and Social Psychology. January/July 1998. Trinidad. Pg 155.
2
FBI (www.fbi.gov)
http://www.faculty.smsu.edu/m/mkc096f/what_I_learned_about/GANGS/gangs.htm#©

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4 Terence P. “It is unlikely that the social and psychological forces that lead to gang membership are only those established early in the life course.” They have concluded that the genesis of gangs has to be more than just social structural position or family relationships but must also include. Thornberry and four other researchers in their treatment of gang membership as ‘a life-course orientation. 2003) 7. NJ: Prentice Hall. most studies have focused on the period of gang involvement and have not delved into the periods before and after gang association. and 3) have been involved in a sufficient number of delinquent incidents to call forth a consistent negative response from neighborhood residents and/or law enforcement agencies. “ Street Gangs and Street Workers ” (Englewood Cliffs. and individual characteristics. Thornberry. peer. Klein. They see gang membership as a trajectory that some people enter and others do not and offer some explanation as to the reasons for this.THE PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND GANGS Klein refers to a gang as. P. ‘ the broader social ecology’ of neighbourhood. “any identifiable group of youngsters who: 1) are generally perceived as a distinct aggregation by others in the neighborhood. school.’ have sought to look at life before and after the gang through longitudinal observation. 1971) 4 Terence.W. 3 . The life-course perspective highlights the importance of unfolding relationships and developmental influences that are more proximal to the outcome. 3 M. 2) recognize themselves as a denotable group (almost invariably with a group name).”3 Consistent with that definition. et al “ Gangs and Delinquency in Developmental Perspective” (Cambridge: University Press.

In our local context the structural factors would consist of minorities. people respect you. high crime. Identity and belonging needs are conferred to members through a sense of identity especially for those who lack a sense of self. in fact some studies show that gangs attract psychopathic youth and some seek out that type of youth for their 4 . Within the gang you are somebody. under-education and underemployment. which is supplied in part by gang affiliation. young and mostly male whose lifestyles are characterized by poverty. include status needs.WHY DO PEOPLE JOIN GANGS? Most studies suggest two basic variables. This can be as a result of single parents or abusive parents or basically a lack of proper role models (See appendix 1). social disabilities and psychological characteristics. you’ve got a name. The psychological factors. structural factors and psychological factors. Status needs refer to the gang member’s need for social status. which are largely products of the structural. school performance. These social disabilities have the effect of lowering an individual’s self-esteem. identity and belonging needs. and group dependence. withdrawal from school. control. Psychological characteristics are reflected generally in the hard-core members who differ from the fringe members in the areas of intelligence. law and a total rejection of the values of adult authority and an increased dependency on acceptance by the gang. Social disabilities generally range from poor table manners to poor conversational skills. Core members tend to be more anti-social.

or international). the scope of their operations (whether national or regional. length of time in existence. they are deliberately recognize rather than recognizable by default. Skinheads: They usually do not fit the street gang picture. skinheads. They are usually drinking.”5 Once formed gangs are held together by other variables such as inter-gang rivalry. and like the skinheads.violence. 5 . not just lounging around aimlessly. 5 M. TYPES OF GANGS There are different types of gangs in terms of size. they are looking for a target. Klein in his book. Bikers: They are focused on their machines. the nature of their activities. openly. prevalence and control.street gang seems aimless. cruising or dealing drugs in an organized manner. posh and hardcore. level of organizations and nature of their links. W.’ says “ the gang is seen as an aggregate of individuals held together more by their own shared incapacities than by mutual goals. Klein. soft. “ The American street gang: its nature. or move around the streets in a possessive. composition. messing around with a few girls. get outta – our way fashion. ‘The American street gang. there are various types of gangs: street. smoking. 1995). they are working on their written materials. or if outside. They are insiders. bikers.” New York: Oxford University Press Inc. semi-hardcore. if any to the state and to many agencies. by a shared perception that things will never improve and oppositional institutions like police or school. Street gangs: Shown as hanging around street corners. This being said.

rape – murders. These gang members are normally legally employed and are among the respected in society. which can threaten life. Semi. assault. Its members are drawn largely from the working class and lower income communities and are usually unemployed in the legal sense of the word (See Appendix 2). and minor robberies ( of individuals). Posh: The posh gang refers largely to the upper class and the middle class individuals in society including the entrepreneurial and professional elites who engage in white collar type crime and the drug trade. They may not necessarily possess weapons of terror and murder is not normally part of their operational strategy although it can never be ruled out. but their activity also includes institutional robberies (banks. They are not violent and possess no instrument of terror. Hardcore: This type of gang can often span the wider gamut of criminal activity engaged in. distinguished primarily by the character of the violence it inflicts on the victims.Soft: These gangs refer largely to bands of teenage youths involved in such activities as stealing.Hard Core: These are gangs usually comprising of unemployed youths and adults whose activities include more serious forms of praedial larceny such as burglaries. by its semi-hard core and posh counterparts. is therefore. limb or property. breaking and entering. Most of us have some boyhood or girlhood association with these. fruits and the like or what is called praedial larceny. molotov cocktails and dismemberment. killing. The hardcore gang. stores). These gangs do possess weapons of terror and are capable of murdering or wounding to achieve their aims and objectives. 6 .

C. 3. Herbert. provide for the well. and the throwing of a sign (the sign language of the different gangs) are used in the various gangs. and includes differentiation between leaders and followers.MEMBERSHIP OF GANG AND GANG IDENTIFICATION Characteristics such as having a gang name. 6 According to research done on gangs. being tattooed. STRUCTURE OF GANGS Gangs must perform certain functions in order to survive. separate. Members of the group interact with each other in an ongoing relationship. there are two patterns in terms of structure. make decisions about immediate (and perhaps about long term) goals and settle internal disputes. Pg.being of the members. including linkages from the neighbourhoods from which gang members are drawn and the combination of different. 3 7 Ibid.7 The horizontal structure refers to the leadership style which is not vertical in nature. there are many and varied opinions on the issue. They must recruit members. Juvenile Gangs.. Based on the organization of gangs. age groups. wearing clothes of common colour. who may move from one level to another as they get older or the gangs move on. There is the vertical and the horizontal approach to the theory of the organization of gang leadership. “super gangs”. 7 . alliances or federations. GANG ACTIVITY IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 6 Covey. The vertical structure refers to the hierarchy. gangs into “nations”.

crime and violence within the 10. a group of Muslim extremists that staged a coup in Trinidad on July 27. poverty level. The writer cites the Muslimeen group as slightly different in its formation to other gangs in Trinidad.to 19 year old population. The exponential increase in the level of violence over the last two years has a direct correlation to increased gang activity. most of which are linked to gang warfare. the matter of drug dealing and teen gangs is said to be a difficult one. the prevalence of American media. Equally. Already for the year 2005 the country has seen a record breaking ninety-six murders. or bullied. the division that comes with placing students in school after examination can lead to some amount of resentment and hostility in the government run schools since most of the students are from the poorer classes of the society. 2004) 196 8 . Headley states: “the Muslimeen is a consistent and sustained group formed around its 8 Maureen P. (Connecticut: Greenwood Press. have been the focus of growing concern for the government and the people of Trinidad and the region. It is said that the country was alarmed to learn how many teens and youths were recruited for the Jamaat Al Muslimeen mission. attacked. and the increased murder rate in the country. The need for belonging and a sense of purpose are factors that have influenced some of the teens to join the Jamaat Al Muslimeen. So too. 1990. Teen Gangs: A Global View.”8 It therefore means that the school should be seen as central to the understanding of delinquency and teen gangs in Trinidad and Tobago. Understandably then. The level of delinquency. Joann E. Headley quoting Deosaran states: “one in every three youths in the government-run schools is afraid to go to school because of fear of being hurt. it is probably not unreasonable to make a link between Trinidad and Tobago’s recent political turmoil. Duffy.

according to their performance. entices his young male followers with the promises of schooling abroad in Libya. Trinidad and Tobago is an oil rich country but there are wide discrepancies between the classes. Young people are used to peddle drugs among their peers and are eventually initiated. The first indications of this was seen in the failed 1990 coup attempt that was largely orchestrated by the Abu Bakr led Muslimeen movement. The problem of gang violence begins in the schools as teens are encouraged into gang violence with the lure of financial gain. effectively eliminating the middle class and expanding the lower classes. the group’s leader.religious affiliations. and identity formation of the individual.”10 Based on his research. Abu Bakr. McCree cites similar factors which would lead to the formation of gangs and criminal behavior in Trinidad and Tobago. the need for money figured very prominently on the list of factors that pushes teens to join gangs. fame. social and status deprivation. He states: “the role of poverty. into the more serious crimes of murders and kidnappings. 9 Ibid 200 10 Ibid 9 . and religious absolution from any illegal or unlawful activities. monetary security.”9 So too. The result of this uneven distribution of wealth has allowed the criminal element in society to use the disillusionment of the masses to their advantage. social disorganization. values and family background.

11 Maureen P.12 The example cited gives a clear idea of the level of gang activity and its attendant effects in the Jamaican context. a country of 2.” the 17 year old said.6 million people that has a murder rate five times that of the United States. “We have to defend our community. but rather. the wider community. GANG ACTIVITY IN JAMAICA The gang dilemma in Jamaica is extremely serious. 10 . . their families. Teen Gangs: A Global View. They know we don’t support the government.Peculiar to the local scene is the fact that there is not that sense of permanence that is normally associated with gang affiliation. The ordinary Jamaican citizen is terrified and weary of the engulfing dilemma. affecting young people. It speaks of a situation that has alarmed and destabilized the very fabric of Jamaican life. “if we don’t. 12 Ibid. and Jamaica’s reputation around the world. Duffy.” He joined other gunmen who engaged the police and army in three days of street battle that erupted in poor corner of Kingston… Gang violence is as endemic as poverty in Jamaica. (Connecticut: Greenwood Press. persons tend to join for the duration of a job. 2004) 124.11 One writer provides this revealing story: When Jermaine awoke to the sound of gunshots he knew exactly what to do-grab his weapon and return fire. It is only the hardcore members who persist and fight for turf as seen in areas such as Laventille. and Gonzales for example. Morvant. they’ll kill everyone.

Quite understandably then. few friends. turf control. the actual perpetrators of the crimes. known as deportees. (Connecticut: Greenwood Press. and violence in their country of residence. 122 14 Maureen P. often with nothing to their names. So too. So too. and Great Britain in the late 1980s and 1990s. the deportees took over the reigns of power by becoming new gang leaders with their ability to introduce management techniques learned from their criminal experiences in North America and Europe. with an 13 Ibid. were Jamaicans who had been convicted of crimes in the foreign countries in which they resided and served their sentences. February 2002).”13 The literature also said that the deportees were often schooled in the culture of gang rivalry. Canada. Lorna Black states: “these individuals. 2004) 123 11 .The increase of gang activities in Jamaica in the last twenty years has reached epidemic proportions and has gained worldwide notoriety. Some theorists align this level of gang activity and high levels of crime with Jamaica’s strategic position as a major transshipment point for the South American drug trade. gang war. As such when they arrive in Jamaica. personal communication. Teen Gangs: A Global View. other commentators have linked the increasing gang and crime activity to the large number of individuals who were deported back to Jamaica from the United States of America. They were then sent back to Jamaica. in some cases.14 It is said that gangs in Jamaica have accounted for about one-third of all homicides since 1995 (Jamaica Constabulary Force Gang Specialist. and no visible means of support. Identifiable gangs in Jamaica numbered 118 for the last quarter of 2001. the deportees become quickly entrenched in the existing environment that supports gang and criminal activities. Duffy. they became the masterminds who directed the locals.

such as robbery and assault. largely in the capital city of Kingston. . February 2002). 17 Maureen P. Most of the gangs in Jamaica operate in the inner-city communities. 2004) 125 12 . carjacking.”17 So too. Lorna Black quoting Moncrieffe states: “that many of the youths in a particular community simply drifted to the only accessible and comforting structure available.16 It is believed that the gangs are formed and maintained by situational factors.”15 It therefore means that the gangs’ criminal activities amount to large- scale operations across entire communities in Jamaica. The typical criminal gang is organized specifically to conduct criminal activities. The community gang is said to be a group of young males between 12 and 35 years of age who congregate together for the purpose of ‘solidarity and peer group socializing’ and ultimately defending turf. Duffy. gangs can be classified as active. the gang structures. It is said that there are two different types gangs operating in the country. Teen Gangs: A Global View. and other forms of serious crimes. inactive and dormant. They are called the community and the criminal gangs. According to the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Some of these gangs are said to be maintaining their relationship with gang members who migrate to the United States and Europe. (Connecticut: Greenwood Press. It is interesting to note that: “of the 118 identifiable gangs. about 20 percent are considered highly active.average membership ranging from three to ten individuals (Jamaica Constabulary Force Gang Specialist. The active gang is the term used to describe the group that is actively participating in criminal activities in the country. It is said that some of the gangs are closely aligned with the major political parties in the country. that is. 15 Ibid. These criminal activities include involvement in the drug trade. 125 16 Ibid.

Moncrieffe says that like gang members in other parts of the world. initially they become members of a gang to seek identity and belonging. Historically gang creation in Jamaica can be traced back to the ghettoes of Kingston. sexual assault. The organizations began as street gangs. The writer said that criminal gangs operate under the cover of community gangs. In moderate structure: vehicle thefts.”18 Having analyzed the situation of gangs in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. the following social and economic factors lend support to causes for the rise in gang violence and criminal activities in the above-mentioned territories. The gangs were said to have ties with the two major political parties in Jamaica since many were spawned during the political upheaval that engulfed Jamaica in the mid- 1970s. and robberies of banks. and turf wars. During this era of political and social disaffected youths who felt the future held little for them sought empowerment through the respect they gained as armed enforcers for the political parties. The high structure gang is involved in: transnational drug trafficking. and arms dealing. The lower-structure gangs: small robberies. 18 Ibid. somewhat similar to the gangs in the urban United States. 127 13 . According to Lorna Black: “political parties hired gangs of armed street youths to intimidate their opponents in the struggle for power. moderate structure and lower-structure gangs. money laundering. Moncrieffe identified gangs on three different levels such as: high structure. and businesses. extortion of community members.

He would come from an urban slum and have no assets. Level of economic discrimination (exclusion based on skin colour. He would be functionally illiterate with no work related skills and virtually no work experience. e. Future violence and injustice cannot be avoided when the basic right to participate in the choices of society is denied. 20 Crime and Violence in Jamaica: Causes and Solutions. family ties. Declining living standards."19 A portrait of the overwhelming majority of those in prison for violent crimes would be: a male between 18 and 29 years of age. 14 . Peter Philips & Judith Wedderburn (UWI. This portrait helps us to identify some important factors our sociologists usually link to recent increases in crime in the Caribbean20: a. Increased unemployment (a growing urban wage-less class). Increased urbanization and high population density (decline in agriculture). regional identity. b. g. 19 World Day of Peace Message (Pope John Paul II. f. language differences. d. pp. Increased income inequality between rich and poor. social circumstances and religion). ed. 1985). c. with little access to basic necessities (food and shelter) on a regular basis. § 9.SOCIAL INJUSTICES IN THE CARIBBEAN According to Pope John Paul II. Increased deportation from other countries of convicted criminals. Violence and injustice have often in the past found their root causes in people's sense of being deprived of the right to shape their own lives. "It is essential for every human being to have a sense of participating. 1988). 19-48. of being a part of the decisions and endeavours that shape the destiny of the world. Increased migration (and corresponding family disintegration).

CONCLUSION: As we have noted gangs are a product of the environment we have created for ourselves. 2. peer-counselling training programmes or workshops in order to bring about a better understanding and vigilance within the family and community to deal with gangs and gang activity. To aid this process. and economic perspective. The above ideas constitute some of the root causes to the phenomenon of gang and gang related activities in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. h. religious. illiteracy. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR COMBATING GANGS ACTIVITIES: 1. The psychological factors such as the need for belonging. betrayal and even alienation felt by many. Certainly one of the principal causes of much regional violence is the feeling of frustration. the following recommendations have been forwarded for consideration. and anti social structures. 15 . to name a few. Caribbean leaders must approach these social justice issues from a psychological. Involvement and encouragement of leadership. high unemployment rate. supports the view. In order to address the phenomenon of gang activities. sociological. From the study these are identified as poverty. in a post-independent Caribbean. community and church. unequal distribution of wealth. low self esteem. especially the young. dysfunctional families. Introduction of and sustained youth and self-awareness development programmes within the school.

similar to that of Servol should be implemented in schools especially junior and senior secondary. 6. There should be collaboration and networking with government. Stringent measures by the powers that be and pressure groups should be implemented to deal with delinquent parents. law enforcement agencies media and businesses to implement preventative measures within the community. 7. Support systems and pressure groups should be implemented to address the situation of gang activity. There should be hotlines and gang anonymous groups for gangsters who desire to transform their lives. 4. Media should sensitise the public through advertisement and other helpful programmes. 16 .3. 9. They can also render their services at various levels. 5. 10. 11. Employment and on the job training programmes should also render psychological training and development. Counselling and consultation by professionals should be made available to assist individuals who are directly or indirectly connected or affected by gangs or gang activities. 8. Financial and social support services are needed and should be provided to assist in gang prevention. Parental guidance and training support systems should be put in place to help parents to improve their parenting role. Centres similar to that of rehabilitation of drugs and substance abuse should be set up. Implementation of adolescent development programmes. reform and intervention measures.

talent and treasure to bring about the type of change that would challenge all for the betterment of a gang free society. It has to begin in the home and filter out into the wider society. reform and intervention measures on an ongoing basis. Individually and collectively we can make a difference as we collaborate our time. 13. crime. and the empowering of people.12. 17 . Each one has an important role to play. in this twin island republic. wealth distribution. Religious denominations should have pastoral plan which should entail careful strategic planning at all levels to be implemented to deal specifically with gang prevention. It is important for everyone to make a significant contribution in order to eliminate the presence of gangs or gang activities from the society. The Government in addressing this problem must look at ways of alleviating the extremes of poverty. The task before us is alarming but it is not insurmountable. Better training must also be given to law enforcement agencies and those involved in education so that there can be a proactive approach to the problem of gang activity and by extension. especially along the East-West corridor.

” Caribbean Net News Correspondent. 2005. “St Vincent and Grenadines Minister calls on police to be more confidential.com/2005/01/26/confidential. Kenton.asp Chance. Lester B.shtml 18 . http://www. 5th September 2003. “A War on Crime". January 26.BIBLIOGRAPHY Bird.antiguabarbuda.caribbeannetnews.com/business_politics/prime_minister/pm_speech_policewee k. http://www.

Wiener Valerie “Ultimate…The Youth’s Choice. Marvin D. Crime and Violence in Jamaica: Causes and Solutions. Teen Gangs: A Global View.. Bobo. Trinidad.com/Article1068. Zambo & Zeeks. Philips. January/July 1998. Juvenile Gangs.smsu.. Krohn. Covey. “Gangs in Developmental Perspective: Substantive and Policy ” Gangs and delinquency in development perspective. Tobin Kimberly. Maureen P.faculty. (Connecticut: Greenwood Press. Peter. 1988) Pope John Paul II. ed. & Judith Wedderburn (UWI. 2004) FBI (www. Smith Alan J..” Winning the War against youth gangs London: Greenwood press. http://www.edu/m/mkc096f/what_I_learned_about/GANGS/gangs. November 21.gov) http://www. Carolyn A. 2004. McCree.htm#© Herbert.” Ttgapersweb Caribbean postal.html Duffy. Terence P. “Violence: A Preliminary Look at Gangs in Trinidad and Tobago” Caribbean Journal of Criminology and Social Psychology.ttgapers. Roy D.fbi. World Day of Peace Message (1985) Thornberry. 1999. C.“Crime in the Caribbean: Bubba. Lizotte. 19 .

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Gangs form due to the lack A rite of passage into To accomplish the passage of acceptable rites of adulthood. and discipline. high self-esteem. others. from childhood to passage into adulthood. Security feelings of fear. models. Gangs form due to a lack of Activity To keep from being bored legitimate free-time . absence of a family and its unconditional love. and unconditional love. self. and adult role models. Gangs form due to a feeling Power and control over one's To overcome their feeling of powerlessness. To escape abuse. For economic gain. self-esteem. deprivation. of powerlessness. unconditional love. and proper discipline. positive adult role models. Gangs form due to school An alternative to school and Out of their frustration with failure and low self-esteem. positive adult role and proper discipline. Gangs form due to the A surrogate family. reduce fear. The absence of a family its A surrogate family Their need for a family. APPENDICES APPENDIX 1 Why Gangs Form What Gangs Offer Why Youths Join Gangs form due to the Acceptance They are discriminated impact of social against and long to be discrimination and accepted and have a sense rejection. 21 . Gangs form due to abuse. self-esteem. and a lack of security. positive unconditional love. positive adult role models. adulthood. activities. and life situations. of belonging. school Gangs form due to a lack of Opportunities to build positive To acquire high self teem. Gangs form due to economic A means of earning money. and to feel secure. The need for a family. proper discipline.

Guns. Assault/ adults (individuals) Posh Social elites. rape class killings. aggression Gangs form due to the Any of the aforementioned. Gangs form by building upon A setting in which an individual To vent their anger and a pathological offender's can act out his or her rage in an accepting setting needs. slicks (sling Praedial larceny(fruit stealing) shots) Semi Hardcore Unemployed youths. contract Robbery (organizations). APPENDIX 2 Type of Gang Membership Means Activities Soft Teenagers Stone. cutlasses Praedial larceny (burglary). knives.kidnappings molotov cocktails. drugs. dismemberment 22 . professional “Cooking the books” White collar crime. drugs guns/murder (complicity) Hardcore Unemployed/working Guns. influence of migrating gang members. Any of the aforementioned.