Rising Murders in Jamaica’s Capital: Criminal Power Vacuum?

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

Authorities in Jamaica have reported a 40 percent rise in murders in West Kingston, likely the result of a power vacuum left by the fall of the area’s former crime boss, Christopher “Dudus” Coke and a repositioning in the criminal underworld.

According to figures from the Jamaica Constabulary Force, 35 murders were reported in West Kingston between January and May 24 this year, compared to 25 murders during the same time period in 2013.

Anthropologist and university lecturer Dr. Herbert Gayle told the Gleaner this increase in violence was linked to a proliferation of criminal leaders in this part of the nation’s capital city, which occurred in the aftermath of Coke’s arrest.

“You have multiples of small communities where they may have their own leaders, and they create more blood than one big don,” he said.

He also blamed a lack of state social interventions, which has led communities to remain dependent on these criminal leaders.

InSight Crime Analysis

West Kingston is the former stronghold of Dudus Coke and his infamous Shower Posse, which reigned in the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood between 1992 and 2010. They trafficked tons of cocaine and marijuana to the United States before Coke was arrested in a violent military operation, was extradited and pled guilty to racketeering.

As was the case with many area dons, Coke had strong political connections that helped his power grow and allowed him to operate with impunity. He also maintained a public image as an area “Robin Hood,” building a support base that has persisted even after his fall.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Jamaica

After Coke’s capture, various smaller gangs emerged to fill the power vacuum, a shift that appears to have led to renewed violence. While Jamaica’s homicide rate (which had reached 62.4 per 100,000 in 2005) fell in the years immediately following Coke’s arrest, murders began to rise again in 2013, and this trend appears set to continue. West Kingston gang wars have allegedly been responsible for over 100 deaths in the past two years, and a recent wave of murders was attributed to gunmen fighting for turf. While gangs reportedly participated in peace talks this past winter to quell the violence, the continued upward trend in murders indicates little has changed.

Extortion is one source of violence. According to police, there are now numerous gangs fighting over extortion profits that were previously controlled by Coke. Jamaica also remains a cocaine transit country — though its importance as such has declined — and is the biggest Caribbean supplier of marijuana to the United States, likely another source of profit-based rivalries.

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+