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Jamaican Posses

Origins

The Jamaican posses began in the late 1960s and 1970s as urban gangs recruited and armed by politicians to: organize local constituencies, distribute political favours, enforce party loyalty and turn out votes. Such gangs were created by members of both the conservative Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the leftist People’s National Party (PNP), Jamaica’s principal political organizations. The use of armed gangs and the promotion of violence as strategic initiatives to secure or retain political power became known in Jamaica as "political tribalism." The gangs would eventually call themselves "posses," a result of the infatuation in urban ghetto areas at the time with the gunslinger ethos of American and spaghetti-western movies.

The posses, led by local "dons" in league with political party figures, established urban political strongholds known as "garrison" communities, veritable fortresses completely controlled by one political party or the other, "states within a state" in which those who sought to oppose the dominant party "would definitely be in danger of suffering serious damage to their possessions or person. By the late 1970s, both PNP and JLP garrison communities had been established throughout the capital of Kingston; in the adjacent St. Andrew parish to the north; and in St. Catherine parish just to the west where the principal city is Spanish Town. During the run-up to the 1980 elections, running battles between PNP and JLP posses resulted in an estimated 800 political killings and nearly 20,000 people burned out of their homes. 

In the early 1980s, many posses became involved in cocaine and marijuana smuggling as Jamaica developed into a transshipment point for drug trafficking to the United States. With this new source of income, posses and their dons could rely less on the patronage of politicians and began to operate more independently. Still, posses continued to play a political role through the 1980s and 1990s, and because of the overlap and, in some places, integration between political and drug-trafficking structures, the line between political and purely criminal violence became blurred. 

Though the level of specifically political violence has not returned to the heights of 1980s, and political party leaders have tried to disassociate themselves from armed political enforcers, garrison control of communities through force and intimidation has actually expanded. In 1997, eight of Jamaica’s 60 electoral constituencies—all in Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine—were identified as "unambiguously garrisoned," an increase from just three in 1989, while there were four others where domination by one political party or the other was estimated at 50 percent or more. At the same time, purely political violence has become more of a "seasonal phenomenon," primarily affecting communities during electoral campaign and periods of national political tension.

Over the course of the last two decades, the leadership and relative strength of posses have evolved, as new dons have emerged and some posses have split, reorganized or established bases of operations in the United States and Britain (where they are known as "yardies"). In some communities, posses today are not only trafficking in drugs and guns, they have also begun funding and running their own social welfare schemes. What has not changed is the division of urban communities along traditional political lines and the cyclical feuding and retaliation between posses over turf and limited public resources. For example, the electoral constituency of Western Kingston remains a JLP stronghold, while much of St. Andrew as well as East Central St. Catherine remain PNP garrisons.

Jamaican posse members are highly mobile and travel frequently to new areas to set up drug distribution networks in other communities. As they expand, they leave behind trusted lieutenants to manage their old territories and to collect the profits due them. When posses attempt to expand, they often encounter fierce opposition from African-American drug dealers already established in the new areas. Conflicts inevitably erupt, and frequently turn into armed confrontations and murder. 
Such violence also occurs between posses, often for the most insignificant of reasons. One such case, which took place in a park in Oakland, New Jersey, in August, 1985, was a gun battle between elements of the Shower Posse and elements of the Spangler and Dog Posses. This incident resulted in the death of three persons, the wounding of 19 others and the seizure by police of 33 weapons. 
As with other organized criminal groups, adaptability has become a characteristic of the Jamaican Posses. Between 1983 and 1986, when large numbers of posse members began moving out of upper Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx to establish networks in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., some law enforcement interdiction programs were successful. Additionally, the New Jersey State Police and police from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have arrested many Jamaicans on drug possession and weapons charges. 
As a result of these arrests, according to informants for the State Commission of Investigation, posse members, after 1986, began using only couriers to transport drugs. By the spring of 1987, these couriers were using primarily buses and trains on trips from New York to points south. Posse members fly back and forth between New York and their bases of operations to make arrangements for drug purchases or sales but only the couriers actually transport the contraband. Additionally, after 1986, posse members began buying some weapons locally, using local African-American females, but since this was risky in many jurisdictions, they also continued importing weapons by vehicle from Florida and Texas. 
The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) estimates that there are at least 40 Jamaican posses with more than 13,000 members operating in the United States. Most of these posses are spin-off groups from the major posses. Five posses have been positively identified as having drug distribution networks in New Jersey. They are the Shower Posse, the Spangler Posse, the Dunkirk Boys, the Tel Aviv Posse and the Waterhouse Posse. Members or associates of other posses who are not aligned with an operational drug network have also been arrested in New Jersey. 
Also located in Willingboro is a Jamaican marijuana importation and distribution network which supplied much of the marijuana to Shower Posse members and associates who operate and staff Jamaican crack houses in West Philadelphia and the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Willingboro is also the base for an alien smuggling ring which supplies much of the manpower to staff the various crack houses for the Shower Posse in Philadelphia. 
Since Jamaican organized crime first came to the attention of law enforcement, intelligence regarding political affiliation of a particular posse has been a key factor in determining linkage to criminal associates, probable cash flow of profits, organizational structure of the posse and sources of supplies for narcotics. Similarly, accurate determination by police of the political affiliation of an individual posse member would eliminate the possibility of his membership in a posse allied with a political opponent. By the end of 1989, however, entrepreneurial considerations had become more important than political allegiances in running the posses. As members of the old guard of the posse leadership are either killed or jailed, younger members, some of them second generation immigrants less attuned to the gang warfare and politics of Kingston, are taking over. The emphasis now is on practical concerns such as who is able to supply the drugs and at what price. 
This does not mean that a posse member in the United States no longer cares who is in power in Jamaica. On the contrary, politics affects his relatives and friends in the old neighbourhood in Kingston. What this does mean is that the new Jamaican immigrants connected to a posse think more of the bottom line as they assume leadership roles in their gangs rather than of political labels as their elders did. 
Law enforcement has even reported former enemies such as Spangler and Shower posse members working together in drug deals to increase profits for their common benefit. Violence too may be on the wane. Violence has long been the trademark of the street gangs and was the means by which the posses first established their various drug cartels in America. However, this proclivity for violence is also what alerted law enforcement to the presence of the posses and galvanized its efforts against them. The American-born offspring of Jamaican Posse members and associates just entering the drug distribution networks are more judicious in the use of violence. They are also less inclined to share profits with a select upper echelon. 
Within the next three years, as posses are dismantled by law enforcement, the younger men will splinter into smaller groups and operate their drug networks on a regional level rather than on the expansive levels that the posses now operate. This move toward independence will create additional problems for law enforcement since drug quantities available for seizure will remain small and the targets will therefore seem insignificant. These separate cells or crews will utilize the same sources of supply as their predecessors and will also have adequate manpower for their street sales by smuggling illegal aliens from Jamaica. It is also most likely that these youths will expand their legitimate business operations beyond the ethnic grocery store or record shops into the more Americanized, large investment enterprises such as automobile leasing or dealerships, trucking or travel agencies. In fact, incidences of this are beginning to occur in Florida and New York. 
Interdiction programs will continue to accumulate significant numbers of arrests because the loss of a drug courier will not hamper the future Jamaican networks, just as they have not really disturbed the present networks. Confrontations with African-American drug networks will continue for some time until a gradual assimilation is made by the second generation of Jamaican youth. Due to their cultural background, it is probable that as long as there is a demand for any kind of drug on the American scene, there will always be a Jamaican presence in the distribution of that substance.

Activities

Jamaicans are principally involved in drug smuggling, especially crack cocaine and marijuana. Unlike other gangs though the posses collect their money after the drugs are sold on the street. Profits are then given to their leader who redistributes the money as he sees fit. Also unlike other gangs posses aren't involved in money laundering preferring to keep it all as cash.

Drugs are smuggled in by couriers travelling on commercial airlines. Once in the country the drugs are then taken by bus or car to a stash house until it is ready for sale at which point it is taken to a crack house by a local youth. Crack houses are usually old buildings which have been heavily fortified. When entering new territory they scout the local drug market first. They then sell the highest quality drugs at the best prices to drive competitors out of business. Failing that they use violence and murder instead. 

Other activities include gun running, forgery, grand theft auto, kidnappings, robberies, insurance fraud and home invasions. Posses are considered the most violent and murderous of all gangs, feared by even the Colombians.

Examples of Posses

Recently the term "posse" has become popular with non-Jamaican gangs, due to the publicity surrounding the Jamaican groups. In many urban areas, for instance, African-American youth gangs have adopted the term "posse." And many of the real Jamaican posses have started calling themselves "Massive" to describe their core group, (i.e., Spangler Massive and Dunkirk Massive). Many of the second-tier members have started using the term "crews" to describe their cells or their drug distribution networks.

The Shower Posse originated in the Tivoli Gardens section of Kingston, Jamaica, and its members have been avid supporters of the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP). In September, 1988, a federal grand jury indicted 34 members of the Shower Posse, including Lester Lloyd Coke, alias Big Jim Brown, the Shower Posse leader in Kingston, as well as Vivian Blake, the leader of the Shower Posse in the United States. Blake's two half-brothers, Errol Hussing and Tony Bruce, who headed the New York City operations of the Shower Posse, were also indicted. Coke is scheduled for an extradition hearing from Jamaica. Vivian Blake is still a fugitive, and intelligence information indicates that as recently as September, 1989, he had been in Atlantic City for less than 24 hours before departing for Toronto and then to Jamaica. 
Shower Posse networks are involved in the sale of cocaine and marijuana in the New Jersey cities of Newark, East Orange, Irvington, Camden, Atlantic City and Vineland. Recent arrest statistics indicate that the number of Shower Posse members operating within the state is growing. In November, 1988, 53 Shower Posse members were arrested in New Jersey for their involvement in drug distribution. Within the last year, the number of members identified has increased to 75. By November, 1989, arrests in Trenton and Bridgeton revealed Shower Posse activity in those areas as well. 

The Spangler Posse originated in the Matthews Lane area of Kingston and its members have been traditional supporters of the Peoples National Party. The late Glenford "Early Bird" Phipps headed the New York City-based operations for the Spangler Posse, along with Toywell "Cow" Phillips, who also controlled drug distribution networks in Englewood and Paterson. Under investigation by New York authorities, Toywell Phillips fled back to Jamaica in early 1989. Some law enforcement officials believe that Phillips' replacement for the Spanglers will be from the New Jersey area. Glenford Phipps was murdered in Kingston on July 15, 1990, while acting in his capacity as Supervisor of Metropolitan Parks and Markets in Kingston. 
Spangler Posse networks are also involved in the distribution of drugs in Paterson, primarily marijuana, cocaine and crack. Intelligence information indicates that Spangler members in New York City continue to supply marijuana to associates in Trenton and Camden. The number of Spangler Posse members identified as currently operating drug distribution networks in New Jersey is 45, an increase from the 27 reported in 1988. 

The Dunkirk Boys Posse, also known as Kirkys, has been under the leadership of Dennis "Stickman" Smith since 1977. Traditionally, this posse has been mixed politically, but has many members who support the Peoples National Party. From 1987 through 1988, the Dunkirk Boys in New York City were at war with the Spangler Posse, but within the last year there has been a cessation of hostilities and a truce has been declared. 
Some members and associates of the Dunkirk Boys who did not wish to participate in the New York war moved into Englewood in 1987, selling marijuana, cocaine, crack and weapons. However, the group has been virtually eliminated from that area because of arrests of their street dealers and mid-level suppliers by the Englewood Police Department and the Bergen County Narcotics Task Force. Ledlo "Blacker" Gillings, the leader of this cell of Kirky's, was sentenced to federal prison on March 3, 1989, on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. The other members of this cell split, some moving their operations to Boston, others to Richmond, Virginia. 
Intelligence information in 1988 indicated that several members of the Dunkirk Boys who left New York City went to the New Brunswick area. These persons, who were only known by their street names, were not reported to be involved in drug distribution but were using this location only as a safe area. 
There were 29 members and associates of the Dunkirk Boys Posse identified as operating or controlling drug distribution networks in New Jersey in 1988. At the present time, however, there is no known network of this posse actively operating in New Jersey.

In the late fall of 1989, information was developed regarding known members of the Tel Aviv Posse operating in Paterson. The Tel Aviv Posse originated in the Tellerville section of Kingston, where they were initially known on the streets as the Skulls. The members support the Peoples National Party and they have been known to associate closely with members of the Jungle Posse. The Spangler Posse has long operated several drug distribution networks in Paterson and it appears that the Spangler networks are operating independently but not in conflict with this new posse. Since all three posses – Spangler, Jungle and Tel Aviv – are supporters of the Peoples National Party, it is possible that they are working together. 

Members and associates of the Waterhouse Posse have been arrested in Jersey City and Mount Laurel in the past. Between 1983 through early 1985, a small cell of the Waterhouse Posse operated a marijuana distribution network in Trenton. The principal operatives of this marijuana network were Dennis Derrick Dobson and Daniel Augustus Comrie, both of Willingboro, who were arrested in 1985 for attempting to bribe a Trenton police officer to protect their operation on South Clinton Avenue. On June 4, 1990, Dennis Dobson was arrested by police in Bristol Township, Pennsylvania, for operating a cocaine and crack distribution network out of the Venice-Ashby housing project in Lower Bucks County. Dobson's operation sold cocaine and crack through street operatives in Lower Bucks County and Trenton. 

Jamaicans in the UK

They drive top of the range BMWs, flaunt designer gold jewellery and carry automatic guns as a weapon of choice. They are Yardies and in terms of a reputation for ruthless violence they could one day rival the Triads or Mafia.

A spate of violent killings in London's black community has raised fears that the capital is witnessing a renewed bout of Yardie gang warfare. It would not be the first time. Almost 12 months ago similar predictions were being made after three murders appeared to be linked to gang activity. That it failed to materialise was seized on by those who feel the Yardie phenomenon is more myth than reality. Certainly the Metropolitan Police do not formally acknowledge the existence of Yardie gangs. They refuse to use the term publicly, although the Met's Operation Trident is widely seen as an effort to combat Yardie crime. Trident, which started life in south London, has been compiling information on the crossover of gun and drug culture and investigating shootings in the area. It is currently being rolled-out across the capital.

Yardies is the term applied to Jamaican-born gangsters operating in Britain. The name refers to criminals from the impoverished back yards of Kingston, Jamaica. One reason for the police's reluctance to pigeonhole Yardies in the manner of other organised crime groups could be their lack of organisation. There is no central control or brotherhood structure, so Yardies have few affiliations or loyalties. Gangs are very loose knit and often fall out with each other. Members are mostly linked to drug and arms dealing as well as robbery. It is a lifestyle synonymous with violence - impulse shootings and gangland-style executions are used to sort out internal squabbles. The Yardie phenomenon in the UK was first noted in the late 1980s and their rise is linked to that of crack-cocaine, in which many trade. Since then their reputation for ruthless violence has grown with each shooting. In 1993 Yardies were blamed for the cold-blooded murder of PC Patrick Dunne, who was on patrol in Clapham when he stumbled across a shooting incident.

The gangsters hit the headlines again in 1997 when police tactics to infiltrate the underworld were exposed in a World in Action documentary. Metropolitan Police overlooked a series of violent crimes carried out by two Yardie informers, Eaton Green and Delroy Denton, while they passed on intelligence to Scotland Yard. While an informer, Green was involved in the UK's largest armed robbery, when 150 people were held up at a blues party in Nottingham. In the past six weeks alone, Yardie involvement has been suggested in five black-on-black murders in London. In one double murder last month, Laverne Forbes, 28, and her partner Patrick Smith, 31, were shot in the head in their north London flat. Their seven-year-old daughter witnessed both killings. On Monday a 51-year-old sound engineer, Henry Lawes, was gunned down by a gang of five men outside his home in Harlesden, north west London. His killers waited until he fell over before ruthlessly finishing him off. Detective Superintendent Peter Camiletti, who set up Operation Trident, suggests the recent tide of murders may have been sparked by an infringement of the unwritten code of conduct.

"There seems to be in this culture, a culture of respect for each other's status. If disrespectful acts take place that can lead to revenge attacks," he says. Their expensive tastes can make Yardies highly conspicuous. Wealth is something they flaunt, often in the form of flashy cars, gold jewellery and designer clothes. Moschino is a favourite label. Image is everything in their world, as the notorious death of Mark Burnett demonstrates. In 1991, Mr Burnett was shot dead in the middle of a London nightclub after he accidentally stepped on the toe of a Yardie gunman. Yet stories like this have only bolstered the Yardie image of merciless brutality and, according to some, helped perpetuated what is little more than a myth. Journalist Tony Thompson, who researched the Yardie underworld thoroughly for his 1995 book Gangland Britain, concluded that while Yardies definitely exist, their influence has been blown out of proportion. Across the UK, he estimated Yardies numbered between 80 and 200 in total. Yet between 1986 and 1995 he estimated they had been responsible for 57 murders. Retired Detective Superintendent John Jones, who investigated the Yardie scene in the early 1990s, has said killings are worn as a "badge of honour" and tell others "they are not to be messed with". But the cycle of violence is such that a Yardie never stays on top very long. Their live-for-the moment philosophy explains why, according to Mr Jones, the average life expectancy for a Yardie is 35. Despite their lack of discipline, the "here today, gone tomorrow" culture is a major obstacle to police efforts to infiltrate the fraternity. Added to this is the climate of fear that pervades any culture of organised crime. There were 2,000 partying the night away alongside Mark Burnett when he was murdered. Yet 350 claimed to have been in the toilets when the shooting started, hundreds gave false names and addresses and of the 270 who were immediately arrested, none could recall seeing anything out of the ordinary.

 

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