Residents of Cascade say they have become prisoners in their homes because of an upsurge of burglaries and armed robberies in the last two months. People who live on Second Avenue and Mt Hololo Road say they have been the victims of frequent robberies and home invasions, some of which were violent confrontations. The affected residents who comprise mostly retirees and professionals, were unable to give an exact figure for those who are victims of the spate of robberies but said more than 20 take place each month. The community is home to several prominent figures, including Congress of the People (COP) deputy chairman Vernon de Lima, SC, and, before he left the country, former Urban Development Company of T&T chairman Calder Hart. When the T&T Guardian visited the district several elderly residents admitted their area was plagued by bandits but many declined to comment on the situation, fearing for their safety.
One couple was willing to speak in the hope that the publicity would spur authorities to act to protect them and their neighbours from the attacks which they claimed have become a daily occurrence. Sixty-eight-year-old Scott (not his real name), who has lived in the community with his family for most of his life, said the latest incident occurred at his home last Tuesday afternoon. Scott said the break-ins and armed robberies started about two years ago and have got worse in the past two months. “I was sitting in my porch having a drink when two young boys came calling by my gate,” Scott said. He said when he checked, he was confronted by the men who drew a gun and forced him into his house. “My wife was inside and they made both of us lie on the ground, facing away from them. They keep asking for the cash and gold,” Scott said. Scott, who was trembling during the interview, said he and his wife did what the two bandits ordered. “They tied us up with the cords from the telephones and they conducted their own search of the house,” Scott said.
He said the torment lasted for about 20 minutes and the thieves stole all of his wife’s jewelry and a television set. “They took the keys for my car put all the items in it and drove off,” Scott said. “The main thing is my car. I feel lost without it. Now, I can’t go to the post office or supermarket.” Although he and his wife, who is also in her 60s, were tied up by their attackers, they said they were both fortunate not to be harmed. The couple, who were visibly traumatised, said they believe a greater police presence in the area was needed. They said almost 80 per cent of their neighbours had been victims of the attacks with incidents occurring every day and sometime there are multiple break-ins in one day. “The police promised they would be sending more of their patrol cars. Hopefully that will work but for now we will keep our gates and doors locked,” Scott said.
Speaking with the T&T Guardian in a telephone interview, a member of the Second Avenue Residents’ Association, Douglas Walker, said the regular incidents were a cause of concern for the association. “These incidents occur in waves for about three months, and then they stop for a while,” Walker said. He said during the three-month State of Emergency last year, there were no reports of robberies. “We are working with the police and a private security firm to institute serious action against these criminals that target the community,” Walker said. He did not reveal details of the plans but said the residents wanted to surprise the bandits. He said the association was planning a meeting with police to allow residents to express their concerns and make suggestions to help improve security in the area. All the residents interviewed yesterday said the criminals were entering the area through tracks which led over the Cascade Hills to the squatting communities along the Lady Young Road, Morvant. “Them boys coming through the tracks from Laventille, Morvant and Belmont. We see them walking there every day,” said one woman, who wished to remain unidentified. When contacted yesterday, senior police sources in the Port-of-Spain CID admitted that police had received reports of various house-breakings and robberies in the area. However, they claimed these areas in Cascade were not affected by crime more than any other community in and around Port-of-Spain.