Last update: 13-Dec-2013 3:20 am
Friday, December 13, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Rapid response crime unit
A rapid response unit, 300 new vehicles and an increase in manpower for the T&T Police Service (TTPS), expansion of the CCTV network, a citizen security programme, a new system for appointing the Police Commissioner and the strengthening of the Police Complaints Authority are among some of the initiatives the Government plans to implement to fight the rising crime problem in the nation’s capital and beyond. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar made the announcement yesterday after she met with Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, Cabinet ministers and Opposition members in a meeting called to address the crime problem.
In a press briefing afterwards at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), St Clair, Persad-Bissessar said she was heartened partisan politics was put aside to address problems which drew greater public concern last week after six people were murdered in east Port-of-Spain within 24 hours. “We agreed to the creation of a criminal offence to deal with illegal home invasions and we recognised that urban renewal can be part of the solutions to the problems we are facing in urban areas in the city,” Persad-Bissessar said. She said capital offences and anti-gang legislation, which she said would be reviewed, were discussed and were to be included in discussions with the teams, who will meet again next week for more talks. She said there also was debate on whether a Parliamentary Standing Committee on crime suppression and security was needed but further discussion was needed on it. Some of the initiatives, she said, would require legislation and some would not.
Immediate approval, she said, was given for acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams to form a Rapid Response Unit and to buy 300 new vehicles for the service. The vehicles should be available sometime next month. The unit, she added, would consist of response teams, “which will be equipped with advanced technological devices to improve police response time.” Persad-Bissessar said police also would be on patrol throughout the length and breath of the country but would focus on the country’s most crime-prone areas. She said to staff the unit and to assist with increasing manpower in the TTPS, a specialised training programme for Special Reserve police officers was initiated last June. The first batch of officers from the programme are expected to graduate next month. She said a CCTV expansion project, started in November 2012, was expected to continue. Persad-Bissessar said 873 cameras were installed in areas, such as Beetham, Laventille and Tobago.
Proposals, she said, were being sent for Central, South and Western areas. A note, she added, was before Cabinet for amendments to the Customs Act and VAT Act to remove duties and taxes on the private purchase of the cameras, which, she said, was being pursued assiduously. She added a Citizen’s Security Programme, which fell under the Ministry of National Security and was sponsored by the IADB, had been operating in 22 identified communities. She said statistics showed there were marked decreases in serious crime and sexual offences where the programme operated. Cabinet approval, she said, had been given to extend the programme in communities in east Port-of-Spain. Social initiatives, she said, were intended to bring a long-term resolution to the issues of crime in communities. She added: “With respect to east Port-of-Spain, in particular, over the past weeks we have witnessed several brutal murders of young people. “These crimes brought responses of anger, shock and indeed of great sadness. Many measures have been considered in response to this upsurge in violence. “However, I wish to assure the nation the actions of my Government are not merely reactive to the current violence, nor are they confined to only one geographic area. “We seek long-term visions and strategies for the transformation of east Port-of-Spain, as indeed several other areas and communities throughout T&T.”
She said the Government had mandated the East Port-of-Spain Development Company to develop and re-develop the area and to improve economic, social and physical conditions of the community. She said projects, valued at over $25 million, have been started in areas such as Morvant, upper Belmont, Sea Lots and John John among others and several people have been employed under them. Persad-Bissessar said from her discussions with the residents of east Port-of-Spain and others, the communities wanted to be self-sufficient and proposals have been put forward, including housing and sustained employment programmes, community training programmes for school dropouts and unqualified youths. She said Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training had proposed the opening of after school, part-time YTEPP classes at South East Port-of-Spain Secondary School, expansion of courses at the Success Laventille NESC/MIC Technology Centre and hosting of a job fair in the area. Special needs education programme were also considered and support for single parents was planned, she added. She said the Government would ensure the programmes were continuous and utilised skills from within the community. She called on faith-based organisations, religious leaders and others to work with the Government so that safe and secure communities and a country free from fear could be created. Persad-Bissessar hoped both the Government and Opposition had committed to getting it done as expeditiously as possible and to a collaborative approach on the aspects of legislation needed.
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