Gang activities, especially ‘One Voice’, in Hanover
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has blamed gang activities for the spike in killings in recent years in the once peaceful western parish of Hanover.
The prime minister, however, assured residents of the parish that it is something that the Government and the security forces are keeping tabs on with a view to resolving the problems.
"I have regular discussions with the minister of national security and with the commissioner of police, and we are looking at the situation here, and we see that there are signs of entrenchment of gangs; some spill over from St James, some from Westmoreland, and we have to address that," Holness said at a groundbreaking ceremony for a housing project in the parish on Thursday.
He used the opportunity to appeal to Hanover natives not to "give sucker and protection to the criminals that are in our midst," noting that "in many of these instances is not stranger kill stranger; oftentimes it is close friends and family members.”
Holness told his audience that the criminal entrenchment "is only going to destroy your community. I have visited many families here who have been the victims. I remember sitting on one verandah when a lady recounted how she lost her loved one, and as it turned out, it was somebody who was close to the family. So as we seek to provide housing solution to this lovely part of the country, I just want in some ways to arouse your conscience and your awareness to the situation that exists. This beautiful parish should not be contributing to the murder rate, and it is within the power of the citizens (here) to put an end to it. That is the truth," Holness suggested.
In recent years the One Voice gang has been one of the most prominent criminal outfits that have featured in the bloodletting in the Hanover Police Division.
The police reported in June last year that four members of a family were wiped out at their Mount Carmel home during a gruesome gun attack by members of the Hanover-based gang.
The four killed were: 60-year-old Curtis Walters, his 34-year-old common-law wife, Erica Leslie, and their two children, 17-year-old Iana Walters and 14-year-old Curtina Walters.
The then reputed leader of the One Voice gang, 33-year-old Shenarda Leslie, was fingered in the quadruple murder of members of his own family.
The police said the carnage was carried out some time after Erica Leslie made a report at the police station that her nephew, Shenarda, had pointed a gun at her.
At the time, Shenarda Leslie, who was one of Hanover’s most wanted men, had been implicated in some 15 murders within an eight-month span.
Later that month, Leslie, otherwise called ‘Blacks’, who was of Mount Pleasant district in the parish, was reportedly among a group of men who fired shots at the police during an operation in Green Island, also in the parish.
Police said the fire was returned and Leslie was fatally shot. One 9mm Smith and Wesson pistol with four 9mm cartridges was also seized.
The Police High Command said Leslie had become the leader of the One Voice gang following the incarceration of its then leader, Yasser James.
Three months before that, the gangsters were fingered in the shooting death of three business operators at a restaurant in the Dias community of Kingsvale, Hanover.
Then just last week, an alleged leader of the gang, 25-year-old Uton Cockett, and his 45-year-old mother, Carlene Clover, were killed at their Elgin Town, Lucea home by unknown attackers. They were reportedly pounced upon while watching a game of cricket.
The double murder brought to 42, the number of persons who have been killed in the parish since the beginning of this year.
Cockett was a nephew of Valdemier ‘Wingy’ Chambers, a former leader of the gang. Chambers was gunned down last September.