More than 400 law enforcement officers descended upon apartment building complexes in east Port-of-Spain yesterday morning in search of the perpetrators of last week's resurgence of gang violence which saw six people, among them three teenagers, being murdered within 24 hours of each other. At the end of the seven-hour exercise, 90 residents, among them four women, were detained by police and carted off to police stations in the Port-of-Spain Division to be questioned in relation to a variety of serious crimes which occurred recently in and around east Port-of-Spain.
The exercise followed another on Thursday in which 12 "major players" in gang and criminal activity in east Port-of-Spain were arrested at their homes at Laventille, Sea Lots, Beetham Gardens and Nelson and Duncan Streets.Yesterday's detainees together with those from Thursday were being kept at different stations within Port-of-Spain up to late yesterday.Some of the detainees are expected to be questioned by detectives of the Homicide Bureau in relation to the recent spate of murders, while others will be interviewed over recent robberies and pickpocketing incidents in Port-of-Spain.Several of the men arrested will also be interrogated by members of the Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit, police said.Officers of the unit are considering charging some of the detainees under the Anti-Gang Act–a piece of legislation that has remained virtually unused since the imposition of the state of emergency in 2011.
Around 3 am yesterday, 300 police officers and 100 members of the Defence Force, went to communities at Duncan, Nelson and George Streets, which are located a stone's throw fromdowntown Port-of-Spain's central business district.Police sources said organisers of the exercise assembled officers from across ten policing divisions and units to be part of the exercise, which aimed to put a dent in violent crime in the capital.The exercise was co-ordinated by ACP Glen Hackett and Senior Supt Wayne Boyd and was led by ASP Ajith Persad and Inspectors Sahadeo Singh and Harvey Jawahir.While some officers blocked the side streets on the perimeter of the communities between Charlotte Street and Picadilly Greens, others began a comprehensive search of the maze of apartment buildings. With the assistance of sniffer dogs from the Canine Unit, the officers searched alleyways and passageways that link the buildings for drugs and firearms used by the gangs in the communities.
The lawmen were given aerial assistance from a national security helicopter which hovered over the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) building complexes for much of yesterday morning.However, despite their best efforts, the officers came up almost empty-handed, just recovering a modest quantity of narcotics.Police sources said gang members may have hidden their stash of illegal weapons in anticipation of a strong police response to last week's murder spree.Almost every apartment in Nelson Street was searched," one senior officer said.Police sources noted that although no major haul of illegal weapons was recovered, there had been no report of violent crimes in the communities since police stepped up their efforts in response to last week's spike in murders.On Thursday, while touring the communities Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced the implementation of a police post at Duncan Street as part of her Government's measure to combat crime in east Port-of-Spain.Although Persad-Bissessar initially stated that the post will be opened within 48 hours, the deadline was later revised to mid-September.