The presence of Jamaican organized crime
in the United States was documented on an operational level as early as 1976, but some members of
the Jamaican gangs, called posses, have been in the
United States since 1971. However, it has been only
since 1984 that these posses have come to the
attention of law enforcement. Initially, they operated primarily in southern Florida, and law enforcement officials there believe that the posses have
come farther, faster than any other organized criminal group now active in the United States.
Jamaica, the third largest island in the Caribbean, was once the world's largest producer of bauxite, the principal source of aluminum. However, a decline in the world demand for bauxite in the 1960's hurt the Jamaican economy severely, resulting in a migration of workers from the countryside into the cities and particularly into Kingston, the already crowded capital. Many of the black residents of Kingston had already embraced Rastafarianism, a religion which, among other things, teaches a belief in marijuana as an aid to meditation.
It was in an environment of abject poverty, rampant marijuana use and political corruption that the violent street gangs of Kingston were born. These gangs were formed on the basis of neighborhood boundaries as well as political affiliation. Both of Jamaica's major political parties, the Jamaican Labor Party (JLP) and the Peoples National Party (PNP), used the street gangs to influence the electoral process. In the election campaign of 1980, for instance, more than 400 persons were murdered as a result of political disputes. Victorious candidates rewarded their supporters in the gangs with projects for their neighborhoods, development and basic municipal services.
The evolution from street gangs to posses was gradual. The gangs adopted the term "posse" because of their fondness for American western films and because the word connoted the use of violence to enforce political will and to protect neighborhoods from intrusion by rival gangs. Violence was important to a posse member to prove his manhood and to develop a reputation within the neighborhood for being aggressive. Because each neighborhood had certain political loyalties, the posses began to merge in order to exert more influence within their favorite political party. Each posse eventually came to be structured, with a particular leader in some cases called a general and a substructure divided into cells. The size of each cell varied depending on the size of the neighborhood from which it emanated. Cell leaders were sometimes called captains or lieutenants.
The initial impetus for the migration of Jamaican posse members to the United States in the 1970's was simply the needfor funds to obtain semi-automatic and automatic weapons to be used in the perpetual gang warfare in Kingston. Once in this country, posse members were soon able to take over marijuana distribution networks of non-violent Jamaicans who preceded them here. As the posses matured in the United States, the leaders became more insulated from actual street drug sales and expanded into bulk distribution, especially when they became involved in the cocaine and crack markets.
Since the mid-1970's, posses have been involved in trafficking the high-grade sinsemilla strain of marijuana called "Jamaican Gold," which is indigenous to Jamaica. By 1984, the various posses became active in the transportation and distribution of cocaine and crack, also called rock cocaine. In addition to drug distribution, the posses are involved in trafficking of firearms and in kidnappings, robberies, home invasions, alien smug- gling and money laundering.
Between 1984 and 1988, the posses developed a three-tiered organizational sstructure that is similar in many respects to that of the LCN. At the top, the leader receives financial remuneration but never becomes directly involved in the transportation or distribution of drugs. Cell leaders at the second tier direct the transportation of drugs, guns and money between the street level operatives and the leader. Street level drug dealers at the third tier are primarily illegal aliens smuggled into the United States solely to staff the drug houses.
The posses store their supplies of cocaine and marijuana at locations called "stash houses." On a daily basis, small quantities of cocaine are taken from the stash houses to places used solely for street level sales called "gates" or "gatehouses." Such a system minimizes the impact of police raids on the larger operation.
The two largest Jamaican posses are the Shower Posse and the Spangler Posse, and many of the active posses in the United States are spin-offs from these two. Traditionally, the Shower and Spangler groups have been bitter enemies because of their political differences. Members of the Shower Posse are avid supporters of the Jamaican Labor Party, while Spangler Posse members have been solidly behind the opposition Peoples National Party. The first posses to operate in the United States were the Untouchables from Tecks Lane in the Raetown section of Kingston, and the Dunkirk Boys from the Franklintown area of Kingston. Based on presently available information, the Untouchables arrived in New York City around 1973 but the group is no longer active because most of its members were either murdered or imprisoned. Its few remaining members have been absorbed into other posses, primarily the Shower Posse. The Dunkirk Boys are believed to have arrived in the United States around the same time as the Untouchables and are still active in drug distribution throughout the United States.
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.
Similar to many of the LCN operatives who live in New Jersey and conduct their criminal activities in New York, many Jamaican posse member who operate drug distribution networks in New York have chosen to live in New Jersey. In additior to the posses previously mentioned, members of the Paineland and Two Mile Posses have been identified as living in New Jersey.
Within the last year, the term "posse" has become popular with non-Jamaican gangs, due tc 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
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 neighborhood 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.