SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Thirteen suspected gangsters were among the near 100 individuals taken into custody yesterday as the security forces responded with a show of strength to an escalating conflict between two criminal groups that climaxed in a bloodbath in this parish Tuesday.
At the same time, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson told journalists that one of five persons of interest named in connection with the deadly mayhem unleashed by gunmen in Grange Hill on Tuesday has turned himself in to the authorities.
Seven people, including two children, were shot dead, and 12 others were injured in Tuesday night’s rampage which, added to a bloody conflict between the Dester Street and Dallin Street gangs in Savanna-la-Mar, has left families in mourning and placed heavy demands on emergency medical services at Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital.
Yesterday, head of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch, Assistant Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey, revealed that the 13 suspected Dester Street gangsters will be taken to Kingston for further processing.
Bailey said that the Dester Street and the Dallin Street gangs are responsible for several murders, shootings and other criminal activities.
Meanwhile, General Anderson advised the other persons of interest to surrender to the authorities.
“I would encourage the persons on the list to turn themselves in by six o’clock this (yesterday) evening,” he said at a news conference at Montego Bay Convention Centre, adding that after the deadline expires the security forces will conduct operations to find those who haven’t turned themselves in.
The commissioner also said that the security forces’ operation yesterday resulted in the recovery of a Kalashnikov rifle as well as ammunition used in 9mm pistols and 7.62 rifles.
He said that the massive operation in the Westmoreland communities will also be focused on putting a dragnet around individuals who are financing criminals.
“This approach we have taken goes beyond the person who is pulling the trigger, but looking for those persons who are behind them; and where it connects with officialdom we look for them also,” he said.
“A lot of the people who are pulling the trigger have no money of their own. They don’t have access to weapons; so somebody else is bringing them in, and those are the people we are looking for. We are targeting a number of businesses that seem to have links with what is happening in Westmoreland and we will use whatever is at our disposal legally to disrupt these criminal organisations,” he said.
In the meantime, the police commissioner lauded residents for supporting the activities of the security forces.
“The community in Westmoreland and the community leadership have been supporting our activities and it’s encouraging the amount of information and support we have been getting. So the appeal that was sent out has not fallen on deaf ears, and it’s really the kind of reaction we expect — that the community and the police and various arms of Government work together to resolve these difficult circumstances,” General Anderson said.
Following a tour of Grange Hill on Wednesday, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, who pledged that the residents of Westmoreland and the entire island will be protected, promised a quick response to the carnage in the community.
“We are going to protect the citizens of Jamaica and the people of Westmoreland, and we are committed. Hard-working members of the security team will be assigned here by the commanding officers to do the job. It is a very serious matter,” the security minister said.