Pubdate: Sat, 7 Nov 1998
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 


THE Yardies first became synonymous with drug dealing and murder on
the streets of the Jamaican capital of Kingston in the early 1970s.

They were spawned during the political upheaval that engulfed Jamaica
as political parties hired gangs of armed street youths to intimidate
their opponents in the struggle for power. These rival "backyard"
gangs were responsible for a murderous campaign of political violence
unprecedented in Jamaica's history.

But profits from the supply of drugs, not politics, quickly became
their raison d'etre.

Many of the Yardies who fled Jamaica to escape prosecution in the
1980s exported their terror to Brixton and Notting Hill in London.
Dealing originally in cannabis and cocaine, smuggled from Colombia to
Jamaica and then on to Britain, the Yardies have since cornered the
market for crack cocaine that began a decade ago. They have also moved
into the supply of heroin and prostitution.

Over the past ten years the Yardies have moved steadily out of their
Brixton and Notting Hill heartland, setting up "posses" in Bristol,
Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Cheltenham. Drug-related violence has
spiralled every where the Yardies operate.

They display none of the business-like organisation and tight
discipline of groups such the Triads and the Mafia. By contrast the
Yardies, who have no hierarchical structure, have engaged in bloody
fending over the lucrative crack trade. Shootings are often random,
ruthless  and  messy, the Yardies' recklessness making them
particularly difficult for the police to tackle. As one Metropolitan
police officer put it, Yardies are "disorganised organised crime".

A report to the National Criminal Intelligence Service, two years ago
highlighted the danger posed by the Yardie gangs. It stated: "By the
very nature of their stranglehold on the crack cocaine market, they
are a threat to the security and stability of the nation."

Police have failed to stamp out the Yardie menace, and the Met had to
draft officers back into intelligence work less than a year after
winding up its specialist anti-Yardie squad.

Operation Dalehouse, the codename for the unit, ended operations in
1992 after making scores of arrests and seizing dozens of weapons,
including machine guns. However, 11 months later, the threat
re-emerged with the Yardie killing of a south London policeman.

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Checked-by: Rich O'Grady