Trench Town: Violent Crime in Bob Marley’s Hometown

53 minutes 2009 9.5/10 based on 2 votes

Imagine waking up to gunshots every morning, and falling asleep to the music of bullets every night. It’s a warzone where everybody seems to be fighting for a pointless cause.

Tourism is Jamaica’s primary source of income and more than two million tourists visit the island every year, but there’s a side of Jamaica that is completely hidden from visitors. It’s a side tourists never see— the side where there is intense poverty and lack.

About 25,000 people live in Trench Town, a place immortalized by its most famous resident— Bob Marley. Thanks to him, people from all over the world have heard of this place, yet very few outsiders have ever set foot there and still fewer have any idea about what really takes place on its streets. This community has been abandoned by the country’s government and shoot-outs between rival gangs and police are a common occurrence.

Trench Town is divided into different areas and each area has its own leader or ‘Don’. The man who has the most firepower and the most contacts becomes the Don. It’s this conflict between Dons that have turned Trench Town into one of the most dangerous places in the world; a place where police have lost control and thousands of innocent victims get caught in the crossfire.

It wasn’t always like this. Trench Town was originally built in 1945 as a housing project, but since then very little has been invested to keep up the place. The older residents remember Trench Town as a ‘glorious place’ where everybody could afford to live.  But now it’s no longer a dignified place. Most of its inhabitants live in tiny improvised shacks made of rusty zinc panels where they survive on the minimum essentials. The unemployment rate is about 70%. No doubt living like this can be frustrating and disempowering.

Trench Town’s plight is a direct result of its political history. Since the country’s independence in 1962, its two political parties, JLP and PNP, have been intense rivals. Back in the seventies, the young people of Trench Town started to separate into gangs. This had catastrophic consequences due to Trench Town’s geographical position. Politicians benefitted from pitting neighbors against each other. Their intention was to make half of Trench Town PNP and the other half JLP so they would fight each other for benefits.

Today, to discourage drive-by shootings, residents have set up makeshift roadblocks in the streets. Mostly they use garbage like old rusty cars, tires, large household appliances, and the trunks of decayed trees.

The most dangerous part is that young people are starting to see a life of crime as a way out of poverty. Instead of aspiring to get a degree and a good job, or start a business, they take the easy road and end up carrying guns, hoping to one day become the next Don. Watch this film now.

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