Proceed with caution, there is extortion
In recent times we have heard of reports in the media of organized crime groups targeting certain agencies, wholesalers and business in geographical zones for weekly monthly and even special holiday extortion payments under pain of threats of arson, kidnapping or even death by the gun. Downtown Kingston comes readily to mind as over the decades western region crime lords have developed an awful reputation of carrying out this practice and there is proof to this effect with one major kingpin serving time, these crime bosses also have legitimate business/assets as well under the guise of conducting legal trade while they profit largely from the practice. So pronounced this cancer had become that we were furnished with reports through media again of it spreading to unexpected parts of the business district in the up-scale New Kingston a surprising revelation. It was only recently that a certain West Kingston personality had his eighteen million dollars returned to him after much legal ramblings over its legality; of course loop holes were found to make it happen following his other asset forfeiture court battles linked to crime.
We also know of this practice in Spanish Town as well as politically aligned gangs do so to finance their survival and operations and supposed schooling of community kids, holiday and special children’s treats alongside so called community assistance by dons is used to normalize the practice in the eyes of their followers, apologists and even residents who do not support the practice in principle are forced sometimes to keep it quiet as the “informer will die” (informa fi dead) or the snitch ethos takes effect. The face of extortion has been changing as criminal groups and individuals seem to have adopted a Trinidadianized practice where more individuals especially their children at schools or day care are now being targeted especially from upper middle income to high income brackets, Central Jamaica seems a prime target with places like Mandeville since many returning residents reside there, an infamous case comes to mind. The evidence shows of the fear caused by the racket as several shops in a recently built plaza in St Catherine remain empty as persons refuse to rent them fearing a visit from thugs armed with receipt books in some instances (guns hidden or threats made) demanding wads of cash weekly or monthly, in downtown Kingston and indeed other vending/market areas it is a known secret that the practice abounds with higglers and vendors(mobile or stationary) having to set aside money for the collectors who come openly with books as well while their “protection” lurk in the shadows. Even hand cart men I am told cannot escape the “tax” as it were as the hand carts are owned by persons who rent them out and the storage areas have instituted a pound fee for overnight housing. Now comes the city regulation as well compounding the rates that must be charges by these operators to eke out a living.
A recent case with persons were hiding and living in my very housing scheme made news and shocked residents as well myself as the men who were arrested after a very public and massive police raid revealed that the “decent looking” individuals were actually criminals in an intricate kidnap for ransom network and a car stealing ring spanning some three parishes. No one can be trusted these days as one just never knows who your neighbour might be and with individualism becoming a major construct of Jamaican society socialization I am expecting more surprises such as this. The individual targeting kidnap and extortion practice is more so heard of as a problem in Trinidad hence my connection to it previously but what brings me to the reason for creating this entry is that there is a lesbian twist to it that was brought to my attention by two such cases separately but very similar in nature over a five month span. Also there is the business of alleged gay lotto scammers who are also being targeted in Kingston & St Andrew as a practice that has migrated from Western Jamaica where it once thrived prior to the intervention of the state agencies of course under severe diplomatic pressure from the United States as recent activities brought to bear though the authorities refuse to admit it. The recently highly publicised concluded sex tape and blogger case where digital files such as video clips and photos were illegally lifted from the devices of the female owners or computers that were hacked into and the possession of the items used as the bartering tool in exchange for thousands of dollars proved that the practice is on the rise and is getting more complicated with a cyber crimes twist. As I have warned in a precious entry on Gay Jamaica Watch one needs to be careful about Facebook pages, use of smart phones devices and what materials you store and share even privately without the necessary password and other security protection, one just never knows.
Three same gender loving females in total were victims of a kidnap, armed robbery and stalking, with two being a couple who went shopping in the upper St Andrew area they were held for several hours, they were pounced upon as they almost neared their apartment on foot, the other woman was trailed as she walked to her flat as well where she was attacked and dragged in a car, several calls were made to her phone contacts demanding some three hundred thousand dollars in ransom. The three men in the latter case also allegedly fondled the woman for several hours threatening to rape her as they suspected she was a lesbian. In the couple’s case however one was shot sustaining a bullet to the left leg and laid up several days in the hospital for same. Their bank cards and other items were stolen and a price tag of three hundred thousand was also demanded by a series of phone calls for several days by the men or persons believed to be linked to the robbers the case is said to be still under investigation as the women contemplate their next move, relocation and asylum included.
A lesbian in her late twenties is said to have been missing since September 22, 2012 and to date no positive word on her whereabouts, many are now worried she may be already deceased or at least captured in some sick twisted ring or extortion or racketeering. Not to be divorced from all this is the forced prostitution ring and sex trade overseas where unsuspecting women are drawn into the web on behalf of pimps who employ all kinds of methods to sell or barter the victims in a worldwide trade.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that gay men of a certain lotto scamming group have been targeted by thugs who make regular visits to rotating meeting spots to collect part proceeds as the cash rich illegal activity continues despite the new legislation and clamp downs as the National Security Minister was forced to act as United States authorities stepped up the pressure diplomatically and other wise. One popular diva in the Western region of St James said to have been made to part with just under some five thousand United States currency recently as a spat between themselves and a thug (non homosexual issue) led to a raid by his friends on the diva’s home while she was away. Heterosexual thugs also involved in the activity do not seem to mind working with cross dressers or drag queens or homosexuals for that matter and in fact it has become practice to target gay men for the active part of the activity as it is said we speak far better than the average person on the phone so recruitment is targeted for oratorical skills. The relationship is so good that hardly any "homophobicly" based incidents occur reportedly between the groups but more so issues to do with jealousy, payments and as this entry highlights, extortion. Let us not forget the car chasing case I carried on one of my blogs some time ago and another blog post on kidnap for ransom some years ago.
A particular member of parliament is also rumoured (yes I am going there) to be paying a significant amount of money to contain certain damning photographs of himself and other men in a most compromising position making their way to the public domain, allegations are his phone was taken by thugs who he has been friendly with and they decided to capitalise upon the discovery of the raunchy shots. So it seems even with the MSM umbrella we have this phenomenon creeping up.
Disturbing homeless MSM twist
Now that the New Kingston homeless MSM have been scattered as the two major agencies they have come to have a dependency syndrome challenge with due to those agencies dithering on developing and operationalizing the requisite programs to address the exploding problem the men are now targeting other MSM who have to traverse the streets and even in populated areas especially at nights, so pronounced is this extortion cancer growing as some within the population try to justify their action that they need food that outside LGBT parties in Kingston or within them certain weaker personalities are bum-rushed for money with aggressive tactics employed such as physical threats. This is not new I might add as years ago there were some characters who for the most part have either died or moved on who also did this and it never really went away altogether but it is certainly on the rise. An unconfirmed report in recent days suggest a community person who allegedly tried to engage some of the homeless men was given a fine thrashing as he could not cough up the money the men were demanding and the rage they exhibited after having to relocate from the aforementioned agencies former offices since they were given eviction notices. The community person sustained injuries of a fractured arm, cuts and bruises. I too have met with some hostility from some of the men to a certain extent especially the younger group but they tend to tread carefully with me as my temper is not that nice and I can assure you I am not afraid to block it publicly if I have to, besides one has to time the engagement periods, now is not a proper time to do so even if to extend some olive branch of some sort.
Not all the men were being reached by the limited paltry feeding program one agency was offering them albeit without the urgently needed supporting psycho social interventions and agencies simply expect the men to suddenly change their anti social dispositions on the mere delivery of a Styrofoam box of cooked food and a promise of a phantom shelter that is yet to be seen? Then it is no wonder why the men now angered by their forced re-displacement by the new property owners despite the illegality of occupying the vacated offices of the aforementioned agencies. In this case the monster has been self made and fed in part, created by the failure of leadership and the needed systems to address a long standing MSM problem, one of the most visible forms of fallout from profiling due to homophobia. Now comes extortion of and by our own.
A more entrenched form of extortion that has transcended homeless generations is the proverbial pimp tax practice linked to commercial sex work and intimidation by hyper-masculine types with robbery in some cases the June 13, 2012 double murder in the Trafalgar area was indeed as a consequence of this internal rivalry and cross fertilization if you will since gay for pay/down-low men occasionally clash with the street men for varying reasons.
I offer a word of caution to those out there be on the lookout where ever you go even LGBT entertainment events as they are not immune to this problem bearing in mind that an increasing number of non gay personnel are now working in the arena of providing services to party promoters and some coming in under this guise as well.
Social media these days is also a concern as ones general media presence must be monitored with regards electronic tattoos and footprints left on line (outside of the epidermal electronic systems), activities on sites as Facebook, NING, SocialGo, Blogger and Instagram can leave one open to being stalked or monitored by persons with ulterior motives. The seemingly popular practice of updating statuses with geographical location and typed status messages of where one is and actually doing may not only been seen by friends on ones acquaintance list but if the correct privacy settings are not activated can leave one very exposed. These inadvertent notices while cute or socially acceptable maybe pieces to make up a CSI crime investigation scene after the fact. Photos and other data can be manipulated if done proper to implicate you or someone else with all kinds of scenarios and only a highly trained expert can extirpate one from such an matter.
Tracking by persons of a potential victim is made far too easy by these actions on social media, one has to literally behave as if you are being watched and anonymity is basically dead in the water these days. Not even the best codes written for software on social media sites such as Facebook can protect one as a simple bug or glitch can lead to disastrous consequences but seeing Facebook has been forced for example to tighten security features for profiles following series of breaches and lawsuits, they may be the safest site just now but do not take it for granted. BlackBerry and other devices with associated software also MUST be monitored as hinted before. A segway of sorts here is that what one also puts on social media or on-line can affect how one even gets a job, many employers now check potential applicants’ on-line footprints or tattoos for any infraction which may lead to someone becoming ineligible for an interview or being shortlisted.
Updates to come where available as you may know by now follow up is a bit difficult and investigations tend to fade into obscurity of several cases in the formal systems.
Peace and tolerance