AMU Homeland Security Intelligence Opinion

Countering Jamaican Gangs

gangs in Jamaica

By Martin Scott Catino, Ph.D.
American Military University

The battle to defeat Jamaican gangs is one that demonstrates the complexity of modern warfare, and all its changes: shifting centers of gravity, decentralization of authority, increasing sophistication of weapons and communications, and involvement of international complexities evident in global networks, and complicity of states and non-state actors.

Although the center of gravity of Jamaican gangs is the viability and proliferation of the drug trade, and not acquisition of area and resources, the essence of warfare is evident nonetheless–and area control and resources are indeed vital.  Use of increasingly sophisticated weapons, communication, training, and movements challenges local law authorities and involves the need for more powerful, better trained, and more robust security forces.

The balance of power is not incremental and necessarily one of measured in changing steps.  In fact, if these narco-terrorists succeed at acquiring advanced transportation (submarines, etc.) and anti-weapons/weapons systems (SAMs, MANPADS, etc.) they will have succeeded in escalating their efforts to the next level: not just penetration of areas and nations, but regions, and global networks with resiliency requiring more serious efforts.

The Jamaican gangs blend a complexity of political-military skills that project power internationally.  Siphoning corrupt state power into neighborhoods that exchange votes for favor, these gangs utilize international trade hubs (airports, etc.) as well as sophisticated document forgeries to move personnel and material.  Jamaica’s central location facilitates the trans-shipment of narcotics from South America throughout the region, with penetration of the two main drug markets: The United States; and Western Europe.

The efforts necessary to combat this problem of sophisticated and high tech gangs necessitates increasing potent communications, intelligence, firepower, and diplomatic skills, as well as other aspects of hard and soft power.  It is indeed an international effort.

This sounds a lot like modern warfare and not just police work.

About the Author:
Dr. Scott Catino is a U.S. Fulbright Scholar, Adjunct Professor of Graduate Military Studies at American Military University, and serves full time as an Associate Dean of Doctoral and Strategic Studies. He served in the United States, Iraq, and Afghanistan in various supervisory, intelligence, and research posts for the US Army.

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