If the presence of police and army personnel in Laventille is reduced, daily murders in east Port-of-Spain will resume. This was the fear of several residents of the Beverly Hills, Laventille, community yesterday, a month since the community recorded its last murder.
When a news team from the T&T Guardian visited several of the communities yesterday morning, most residents expressed their support of joint police and army patrols, which were implemented early last month by National Security Minister Jack Warner in the wake of several reprisal killings.
“It’s a great idea... it has to remain like this... it has not been so peaceful here in years,” were some the sentiments from residents. A group of CEPEP workers from the community, who claimed they could not venture beyond their area in the past, were working at a job site in neighbouring John John. The workers said for years they were unable to work in both areas owing to a feud between rival gangs in the area.
Warner presents stats on crime in hotspots
According to police statistics, of the 313 murders recorded for the year thus far, 81 were committed in Laventille. The last such murder occurred on September 9 at the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) Beverly Hills community, when 46-year-old mother of four, Alma Noray, was shot dead as she slept in her apartment. “The place peaceful now, it have no more gunshots in the night. Last month people could not walk the street at night, now it’s normal,” said a resident who only wished to be identified as Ricky
Around midday yesterday, a T&T Regiment truck, packed with armed soldiers, arrived at the Fort Picton Police Post to relieve their colleagues who were stationed there the previous night. Residents said at night groups of soldiers would make hourly patrols on foot through communities. Most denied claims the soldiers had been hostile to them while stationed there over the last month.
They also dismissed claims made in the past by other residents, who said the soldiers’ presence created an atmosphere similar to last year’s three-month state of emergency and accompanying curfew. “Is not like any state of emergency, everybody could walk about in the night. It even safer now than before,” one resident said. “People does feel intimidated by police and soldiers’ presence but they are just doing their job and they here to help us,” he added.
He described the violence that was a daily fixture in the community a month ago as a senseless war which claimed the lives of innocent residents, instead of the rival gang members who were responsible for criminal activity. “Its a shame we could not solve this ourselves. We should not have needed politicians to do this,” Ricky added.