HomeNewsBriefJamaica Gangs Follow Regional Pattern of Recruiting From Schools
BRIEF

Jamaica Gangs Follow Regional Pattern of Recruiting From Schools

JAMAICA / 24 APR 2017 BY LEONARDO GOI EN

Experts say that Jamaican gangs are increasingly trying to enlist high school students in their ranks, a reminder that schools often serve as recruiting grounds for organized crime groups.

A recent panel hosted by the Jamaica Gleaner discussed the reasons why many students are susceptible to recruitment by gangs.

"Young boys, in particular, are getting something from being in a gang, which is missing from their home environment. They get respect and they are given purpose," said anthropologist and University of the West Indies lecturer Dr. Herbert Gayle.

"When there is a violent incident, perhaps the father and the mother have been killed and the child or children become orphaned, there is nobody," said Berthlyn Plummer, a member of a government-established civil society organization known as the Peace Management Initiative.

"After that nine-day wonder when everybody jumps around, the media, that child, or children, is not going to school or goes irregularly. Sometimes they don't have proper living arrangements. The next best thing that comes to them in the community is, perhaps, the gang. The gang leader may provide some breakfast or some dinner," Plummer continued.

While some students leave school to join the gangs, others have formed gangs inside school grounds. Jamaican police authorities expressed concern about the rise of student gangs across high schools, especially in the divisions of St. Catherine North and South, RJR News reported in December 2016. These student gangs are usually linked to criminal groups operating in the area, and conflicts between rival gangs can play out inside school grounds.

According to the Acting Commissioner of Police Novelette Grant, in 2016 Jamaica was home to 258 criminal gangs. Of the 1,350 murders committed in 2016 in the country, 65 percent were linked to these organized crime groups.

The National Strategic Anti-Gang Unit carried out operations against 20 gangs in 2016, and 356 members were arrested last year.

InSight Crime Analysis

Schools are known to be recruitment grounds for organized crime groups across Latin America and the Caribbean. Given that youngsters are likely to receive more lenient penalties if caught committing a crime, they provide an attractive form of low-cost, low-risk labor for criminal networks in the region.

In Jamaica, youngsters are often employed as "movers," that is, "persons who move around with illicit items, be it firearms, ammunition, etc.," Assistant Commissioner Clifford Chambers told RJR News. Similarly, in Mexico, drug cartels have used children aged between 11 to 17 to traffic illegal narcotics, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Jamaica

The younger the recruits, the easier it is to manipulate them. Gangs in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula have been known to recruit kindergartners and threaten children who refuse to join their ranks. In El Salvador, the number of children dropping out of school due to gang threats increased threefold from 13,000 in 2014 to 39,000 in 2015.

Nonetheless, as reflected by Dr. Gayle's comments, working for crime groups is still seen as a conduit for a higher social status, given that illegal groups often offer children a sense of self worth as well as physical and material security that their families cannot provide.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

JAMAICA / 17 MAY 2017

Authorities in Jamaica have put in operation a new DNA database, a move officials say could help tackle crime in…

CARIBBEAN / 1 SEP 2011

Drug lord "Dudus" Coke has pleaded guilty to racketeering, closing a dark chapter in Jamaica's history. But the…

CARIBBEAN / 20 JUN 2017

Jamaica's homicide rate has risen steeply in 2017, in what is likely the symptom of a splintering underworld.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…