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HomeNewsArchivesGangs Have Territory "Behind the Eight Ball," Says V.I. Expert

Gangs Have Territory "Behind the Eight Ball," Says V.I. Expert

As passionate about his subject as he was dire in his warnings, local gang expert Lavelle Campbell had police commissioners from across the Caribbean on the edge of their seats Wednesday as he detailed the frightening proliferation of violent gangs in local schools and neighborhoods.
His message was that the U.S. Virgin Islands are not alone.
“It’s paradise,” he said, addressing Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police conference at Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort and Spa Wednesday. “But all our islands are plagued with the same stuff.”
Campbell and V.I. gang coordinator Winsbert McFarlande detailed their efforts to identify and break up local gangs, mostly the spawn of mainland groups—such as the Bloods and the Crips—but admitted to being overwhelmed.
“As we all know, we are behind,” said Campbell, who later showed a photo of a bullet hole through his home window. “We are behind the eight ball,” he said.
Already dominating many streets, the gangs have taken root in junior high and high schools – even elementary schools, he said — erecting artificial barriers of fear and intimidation by marking turf, designating who can use this drinking fountain or that bathroom, all through displays of gang graffiti, colors or hand signs.
Campbell deciphered numerous examples of graffiti, gang-affiliated clothing and hand signs in a slide presentation, many examples of which the commissioners seemed to recognize. He explained how a five-pointed crown referred to a Crucian hybrid the Latin Kings, that “CK” stamps on graffiti marked “Crip killers,” and how girls advertised themselves as “Bloodette Bitches” in local junior high schools.
“Crips and Bloods are not formulated in the Caribbean,” he said. “For some reason we are seeing a rise of it in our territories.”
Give them any quarter, let them slide an inch, and they take over, he said, pointing to their marks on gravestones, churches, schools and even a police substation.
“They don’t respect nothing. They don’t respect themselves. They don’t respect parents. They don’t respect the community.” he said.
It’s up to parents and siblings and friends to disallow and confiscate bandanas and clothes with gang affiliations if they don’t want their kids “to become a casualty or to cause somebody else to be a casualty,” Campbell said. By letting the gangs run amok, Virgin Islanders are waking up to the fact that they no longer have freedom of movement without fear.
“We in jail because the places we used to go, we allow the cockroaches to take over,” he said to nods by the commissioners gathered Wednesday.
“Who would have thought we’d be facing what we’re facing today?” he said.
“I’m sick and tired of what’s going on in our little islands of 120,000,” Campbell said.
McFarlande, who heads up the Territorial Anti-gang Intervention Unit, said the youth are imposing limits on themselves and each other, and by extension, on all residents of the territory.
Gangs are largely responsible for the exponential homicide rate in the territory – which all week has raised eyebrows of Caribbean police commissioners, even those from Trinidad and Jamaica, where posse violence has garnered unwanted infamy around the world.
“Our youth for some reason feel that they are worthless,” said McFarlande. He said it was up to adults to change that.
“This is not a police problem. This is a society problem. A community problem,” he said. “Everybody has a role to play.”
Adults, he said, need to take heed of the signs.
“The youth are talking,” he said, “but nobody’s listening.”
The other regional officials commended Campbell and McFarlande for their presentations and their passion. Reynell Frazer, police commissioner for the British Virgin Islands, asked Campbell to give his presentation to officers and others on Tortola – just the kind of connection the conference was designed to facilitate.
The four-day conference of the ACCP ends Thursday after a final public session on “Crime and its impact on tourism in the Caribbean” at 9 a.m., followed by closed sessions and final business.
Campbell warned that crime, if it is allowed to thrive the way it has with Caribbean gangs, may have the last word on tourism in the region.
“When those cruise ships stop floating and coming to our destinations,” he said, “then you’ll really have social unrest.”

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