Last update: 12-Dec-2013 4:50 am
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Duncan Street welcomes proposal for continuing police presence
Residents of Duncan Street, Port-of-Spain, are welcoming the Government’s decision to set up a police/Defence Force post in the area and are now awaiting the next move. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar visited the crime-ridden area in the capital on Thursday and announced that the joint post will be set up at Building 64.
The move comes after weeks of gang rivalry that resulted in the killing of several residents, the latest teenagers Niam Antoine and his cousin Rasheeda Gomez, by gunmen on Wednesday. Asked how he felt about the Prime Minister’s visit and her plan to set up a police post in the area, Nolan Sandy, who was recently evicted from his house by gang members, said, “Her visit was a positive thing. It shows concern. People will definitely respond to that.
“We’re just waiting on the follow-up now; how she will act. Everybody wondering what is the next move.” Sandy is the contractor on a Government project to build a basketball court on Duncan Street. There are three Government projects in the area and the consensus among residents is that it was the distribution of contracts which had led to the escalation in gang warfare.
Members of a gang evicted Sandy, his daughter and five-year old granddaughter from his Housing Development Corporation (HDC) apartment and occupied it. Asked where he is living now, he replied, “I am not living. I am existing.” But he added, “The police post will reduce the war drastically. Once there is a strong force around, they will just stop their activities.”
Hazel Smith, a Duncan Street community activist, said residents were now seeing a ray of hope with the imminent police/army intervention. “I think law-abiding citizens are seeing some hope. I believe that kind of intervention will certainly calm things down. More young men will remain alive and there will be no sound of artillery all night and day,” she said.
Smith said when she was younger she had worked as a district superintendent in a New York State Department of Correction youth programme, and had interacted with members of the Bloods and the Crips, feared American street gangs, but had never seen the level of gang rivalry she was now seeing at Duncan Street. “I worked in New York and have never seen them putting people out of their houses. I know it will not be tolerated (in New York).”
She said the PM’s visit was a bit late but positive. “If the law is enforced like it’s supposed to be, I think the criminal activities will change quickly.” Smith said, however, that the Government needs to stop contract projects in the area and introduce more structured, sustainable work programmes with parole officers monitoring them. She said the gangs constitute a “handful” of residents and the rest were law abiding people.
“We have teachers, army men, businessmen, casino managers, farmers, professionals on Duncan Street who go to work every day.” Lennox Smith, of Laventille for Laventillians, said a constant police presence on Duncan Street would certainly bring some peace and quiet. He said the miscreants ‘time’ temporary police posts and the minute they are moved, a murder usually occurs. The phenomenal crime spike on Duncan Street is the result of a number of complex issues, contract work being one of them, he said.
Residents are so territorial that the lower end of a street wars with the upper end, Smith said. He noted that last Wednesday’s murders stemmed from a gang member committing the cardinal sin of defecting from Duncan to Nelson Street. He described the gang warfare on Duncan Street (before the police intervention) as intractable and said retaliation killings were sure to follow last Wednesday’s slayings.
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