Last update: 11-Dec-2013 6:16 am
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Gang leader nabbed in Beetham raid
Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams says the Police Service has learnt its lesson from past mistakes it made with the Anti-Gang Act and now hopes they will not repeat them as they move forward. “We will make mistakes every time we get new law in T&T. We will make mistakes, but the critical thing is not to repeat your mistakes,” Williams said yesterday at the weekly police press briefing at the Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain.
His comments came days after police investigating the recent gang violence in east Port-of-Spain had to release a group of suspected gang leaders and members because they had insufficient evidence to prosecute them under the legislation. Some of the detainees were arrested during the state of emergency in 2011 and charged under the act, but were released after Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute them.
Williams said as a result of experience with the legislation in 2011, police will now consult the DPP before laying charges under the act. “It doesn’t make good sense to operate on our own. It makes good sense to operate in partnership with the DPP. So that is why we engage in the consultation process now,” Williams said. Assistant Police Commissioner (Crime) Glenn Hackett, who led the police crackdown in east Port-of-Spain last week, also spoke at the briefing.
Hackett compared criminal gangs in T&T to organised crime organisations overseas. He said the public should be patient when looking for results in the Police Service’s fight against local gangs, as foreign agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would investigate for long periods before making arrests and laying charges. He said the release of the gang suspects from the weekend exercise should not be cause for concern, as the suspects could be rearrested once the police had sufficient evidence to prosecute them.
“We are quietly gathering the intelligence so that when we go foward we can successfully ameliorate the gang situation in T&T by successfully prosecuting those who we go after. That is the purpose,” Hackett said. Hackett said a Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit was recently formed to combat gang activity and its members had received training both locally and abroad.
“When one looks at our experience in trying to enforce the legislation in the past, what we have done as a result is try to engage in capacity-building and training of these officers,” Hackett said. He said 17 people, among them an “infamous gang leader,” were arrested yesterday at Phase Four, Beetham Gardens.
Three of them, including the “gang leader,” were held for marijuana possession, two people were held for selling liquor without a licence and the rest were held on outstanding warrants and in relation to serious crime in east Port-of-Spain. The raid, which began around 5 am, was co-ordinated by Senior Supt Wayne Boyd and ASP Ajith Persad of the Port-of-Spain CID. Hackett said similar exercises will be carried out in east Port-of-Spain and other areas during the next few weeks.
“The police service will not sit by idly and allow law-abiding citizens to be relentlessly assaulted by persons who are so minded to engage in gang-related activities and the commission of serious offences,” Hackett said. Some of those arrested in the Beetham exercise remained in custody up to late yesterday and were being questioned.
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