Found at: 0x1bi.net:70/textfiles/file?law/fbijun01.law

June 1990                                   
          THE YARDIES:  ENGLAND'S EMERGING CRIME PROBLEM                    


                          Roy A. C. Ramm
                 Detective Chief Superintendent
            International and Organized Crime Branch
                           Scotland Yard
                          London, England

     In January 1988, the British press published accounts that 
an organized crime group within the United Kingdom described as 
``The Yardies'' or the ``Black Mafia.''  Shortly thereafter, 
Scotland Yard initiated an inquiry to identify the elements of 
Jamaican organized crime, if it existed.                          

     Unfortunately, disturbing information came to light as a 
n the United Kingdom and what had been happening in the United
States for some time.  The inquiry identified a picture of 
ethnically based crime that was not only growing but was also 
occurring in areas where policing is often difficult and 

AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE                                         

     During the 1950s, while England was enjoying a post-war 
economic boom, the British Government encouraged immigration to 
the country to fill existing job vacancies.  As a result, many 
Afro-Caribbeans immigrated in search of a better standard of 
living.  They mostly found unskilled employment, and because 
areas.  When the country's economic fortunes changed, many in 
this new work force were among the first to feel the recession. 
Second-generation Caribbeans, in particular, found it difficult 
to match achievements with aspirations.                           

     Within the low-income, Afro-Caribbean communities of 
London, crime is not unlike that found in many major American 
cities.  Living in poor-quality housing--often public or 
``project'' housing--the people comprise a disproportionately  
continually plagues residents.                                    

     Over the years, police relations with residents of these 
communities have often been strained, and on occasion, violently 
confrontational.  Policing ethnically sensitive and volatile  
areas was difficult and demanding, although considerable 

     However, the relationship between law enforcement and 
low-income, ethnic communities deteriorated rapidly when a new 
nflux of immigrants arrived in the United Kingdom during the
late 1970s.  Unlike those who preceded them, these immigrants did 
not adhere to a Christian work ethic, nor did they come seeking a 
better life.  Rather, they came as criminals, often fugitives, to 
earn money from crime.  Gradually, these ``Yardies'' (1)

YARDIE PROFILE                                                    

     Yardies are generally single males between the ages of 18 
and 35.  They are usually unemployed, often by choice, although 
musicians, record producers or promoters, or disc jockeys when 
challenged.  Although determining the nationality of those who 
arrive is difficult, Jamaica is by far the predominant country of 
origin.  Entering the country as tourists or to ``visit 
forged credentials.  Many have criminal convictions or are wanted 
by the police.  Because they are known only by their street names 
to their associates, they are extremely difficult to identify. 
Some even travel on false or fraudulently obtained British 

     The United Kingdom became an attractive destination for 
Yardies because of its long-standing association with its former 
colonies in the Caribbean.  Both share a common language and many 
cultural, social, sporting, and religious values-- factors upon 

     Unfortunately, with the immigration of convicted criminals 
and fugitives, a criminal infrastructure arose within the 
community that is hostile toward the police and provides a refuge 
for fugitives.  Clubs, bars, and house parties that tend to 
mitate Jamaican street life provide the venues for crime.

     Even though Yardies find support in these established ethnic 
communities, the United Kingdom is not the destination of choice 
for them; that honor is bestowed on the United States.  However, 
as Jamaican violence and drug trafficking has grown, U.S. 
mmigration authorities and other Federal agencies have become
aware of the dangers posed by Jamaican gangs.  The United States 
entry into the country; consequently, they have been forced to 
look elsewhere, particularly to the United Kingdom.  In many 
cases, though, Britain has simply become the staging point for 
entry into the United States on fraudulently obtained British 

     Once in the United Kingdom, the Yardies who assimilate  
nto the community usually become involved in drug-related crime.
Such crime is primarily introspective, that is, it is the 
community itself that is damaged the most.  Drug sales are made 
s directed toward those who live there.  Inevitably, and no
other areas of the community with burglary and robbery being 
committed outside the defined areas to fund drug abuse.           

     In many ways, the cultural strengths of the Afro-Caribbean 
communities are being debased and abused as vehicles for serious 
crime.  Organized Jamaican reggae parties are used frequently to 
conduct drug transactions.  International travel by couriers and 
traffickers is masked behind the ``international culture of 
music.''  Nonauthorized radio stations are prolific advertisers 
of musical events where drugs are distributed.                    

     The traditional use of marijuana has given way to cocaine 
and ``crack cocaine.''  Here, the methods of production and 
Heavily armored doors, alarmed and protected by locks and grills, 
mobile phones are common among the dealers.  Yet, the greatest 
concern is the increasing use of firearms.                  

     For the most part, British police are unarmed. Also, access 
to firearms by the general public is strictly controlled.  In 
comparison with the United States, shooting incidents are rare.   

     The most common criminal use of firearms is during an armed 
example, in 1987, shots were fired in only 79 of the 18,102 
London.  Of the 685 homicides in England and Wales in 1987, 
firearms were used in only 13 percent of the killings, although 
this percentage is distorted by the fact that one man shot 16 

     Unfortunately, there is a greater willingness among Jamaican 
Eight shots were fired from three different weapons, an 
occurrence totally alien to the United Kingdom.  In some areas 
confidence of the community, some Yardies routinely wear guns as 
macho displays.                                                 

YARDIE ORGANIZED CRIME                                            

     It is difficult to determine by the intelligence gathered 
other crime groups like the La Cosa Nostra.  Yet, one key element 
of organized crime--providing illegal goods or services--is 
clearly evident in Jamaican crime groups.  Without question, 
these groups are involved in supplying marijuana, cocaine, and to 
a certain extent, prostitutes.  They also use force and violence, 
but here is where the analysis becomes more complex.              

     Traditionally, organized crime has been perceived to rely on 
corrupt public officials to maintain its monopoly.  Yet, Jamaican 
crime groups do not have a monopoly, or anything approaching it. 
Nor is there any substantial evidence of them being involved  
n public corruption or the criminal infiltration of existing
organizations, such as unions or businesses.  There is also no 
evidence of any intent to establish quasi-legitimate 
corporations as ``fronts'' for criminal activities.               

     By far, the most vexing questions are those of leadership 
and group structure.  Jamaican crime in the United Kingdom does 
not have a select group of senior figures controlling a complex, 
criminal pyramid.  Rather, Jamaican crime groups have relatively 
only imports the drugs but is also personally involved in street 

     Occasional conflicts between groups are manifested in street 
violence, but for the most part, groups support each other.  In 
fact, it is not uncommon for members to belong to more than one 
common denominator is the ethnic origin of the members.           

     The lifestyles and cultural traits of those involved in 
Jamaican crime  groups increase the danger to public order. 
Members show limited aspirations for material gains; their 
loyalty is to the streets and the so-called ``front lines.''  One 
effect of this loyalty is that those who are perceived by their 
models for youngsters just becoming involved in crime.            

     Structuring an approach to combat these disparate, mobile 
targets is particularly difficult, especially since the police do 
not want to be denounced as racist and oppressive on one hand or 
oversensitive and ineffective on the other.  One successful 
approach is multiagency operations based on carefully researched 
ntelligence, coupled with a sensitivity to cultural issues.
Also, immigration officers experienced in Afro-Caribbean affairs 
are essential components of operations to determine true 

     Planning and intelligence gathering must take into account 
the mobility of the Jamaican criminal, the ``transferable 
culture,'' and the nature of the offenses.  International 
ntelligence indices will often reveal true identities and
outstanding arrest warrants.  Checks of these indices have 
for serious offenses in the United States and Jamaica, including 

     Exchange of intelligence information has identified those 
crime figure was denied entry into the United Kingdom as a result 
of information obtained from a New York law enforcement agency. 
The individual had a narcotics conviction under an assumed alias.  

     Law enforcement agencies must ensure that Jamaican crime 
from one jurisdiction to another do not fall into tidy categories 
law enforcement agencies tend to create.  Early recognition of 
minor characters can prevent their elevation to positions of 
ntelligence analysis can today's foot soldiers be prevented
from becoming tomorrow's generals.                                

(1) The term ``Yardie'' is a moniker given by the Jamaican 
Kingdom from Jamaica, which is referred to as the ``back yard'' 
(meaning back home).