Silent coup on gangs - Millions being spent to train and get employment for reformed gang members

Published: Tuesday | March 31, 2009

Tyrone Reid, Staff Reporter

( L - R ) Hinds, Charles

Gang members are reportedly giving up their guns for training and gainful employment, thanks in part to an in-your-face Government initiative.

The bold state-run venture has a multimillion-dollar price tag and targets current gang members, as well as prospective recruits.

However, though no immediate statistics on the level of impact were available, the initiative might prove a small price to pay on the country's path to peace and prosperity. Minister of Labour and Social Security Pearnel Charles, revealed that the Government initiative has put a dent in gang operations without firing a single shot as some crews have been losing members to the multimillion-dollar government programme.

"We have put a few million dollars together to challenge some of those kids who are in the gangs," said Charles, while speaking at the Yes You Can Survive 2009 seminar earlier this month. "I said to a guy, 'You break the chain of the gang and join me and I will train you and give you a job overseas or a job in Jamaica, and we have put millions of dollars there and I want to tell you, they are coming."

The minister said a few young men had told him that they would rather be gainfully employed than be out stealing and running afoul of the law. Charles said a man asked him if he thought stealing was easy. Others told the minister they stole to supply the needs of their families.

"Those who we are breaking through the gangs to said to us, very clearly, they only go in there to eat a food and if they can eat a food outside, they are not going in there."

He added: "So we are taking them out and we are preventing those who want to go in to eat a food from going."

The labour minister believes much of the country's crime and violence could have been averted if jobs had been provided for many unemployed youths before they were initiated into gangs.

"You would be surprised to know that there are many young people involved in crime out there today who, if they had an opportunity to get a job, either here or abroad, they would not have been involved."

Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Glenmore Hinds told The Gleaner that there had been a reduction in the number of shootings and murders so far this year when compared to the corresponding period last year.

Hinds said most shootings and murders were gang related. "That would indicate a decrease in gang activity," he said.


Though it might seem the Government's plan was working, the senior cop hastened to point out that the reduction was due to a multiplicity of factors or "a series of interventions".

"It is really a combination of intervention measures. You don't want to put it down to one single measure. That wouldn't be accurate."

Hinds explained that the police's focus on gangs and the hot spots in which they operated, coupled with the efforts of social-outreach programmes, had contributed to the decline in shootings and murders.

The senior cop said the Government's train-and-transform programme was very important to controlling crime.