Last update: 07-Dec-2013 3:12 am
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Twenty-one people, including five suspects in a recent string of murders in the community, were arrested yesterday, after a joint police/army unit locked down Malabar, Arima, which was rebranded a crime hot spot. Malabar was also labelled a “crime hot spot” during the 2011 state of emergency, but crime activity had been brought under control there until fairly recently when gang-related activity picked up again.
Yesterday’s exercise was reminiscent of those conducted on Duncan Street, Port-of-Spain, in August, when police arrested 102 people after a spate of murders in east Port-of-Spain and Laventille. Most of the people detained then on suspicion of gang-related activities were eventually released.
After the joint unit scoured the community and made not only the arrests but seizures of a weapon, ammunition and marijuana, National Security Minister Gary Griffith said the exercise was not a “Band Aid” but would be an ultimate deterrent to criminals. “We are doing what needs to be done,” Griffith said after arriving with acting Prime Minister Prakash Ramadhar to oversee what the lockdown had achieved.
“The gangs who feel they can control these areas and have contracts, this is not negotiable. No gangs will have access to state funds if they continue to ply their trade,” he said in another reference to his stated claims that gang leaders would not be allowed to access state contracts. Pointing out that there would now be 24-hour patrols in the community, Griffith said such exercises would also continue as the State tries to get crime under control.
“We intend to put the heavy hand of the law. The Government is working hand in hand with law enforcement officers. We will bring down these criminal elements once and for all. The gangs must no longer feel that they have control or that they can kill each other and call that collateral damage. “We need to lock down this area and there are certain individuals that law enforcement have deemed persons of interest. We are going to find these individuals and remove them.”
Griffith also called on Malabar residents and citizens around the country to trust in the police. He said, however, that he was aware of the concerns of citizens regarding a “small percentage” of rogue elements in law enforcement. “We have put mechanisms in place and those individuals will no longer have access or control to certain positions of authority which affect the operation of police,” he said. He said while the ministry had intelligence suggesting who these rogue officers were, evidence was still being gathered.
“In the meantime, they have been put in strategic positions so that they would not upset the success of future law enforcement operations,” he added. During yesterday’s lockdown, police conducted searches, patrols and roadblocks in the area and arrested people for possession of arms and ammunition, narcotics and outstanding warrants.
Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson showed the media a gun, one round of ammunition, one spent shell and a handful of marijuana afterwards. He said yesterday’s activity was meant to give a sense of confidence to people in the community. “Intelligence led us to today’s activity,” Richardson said. “We cannot say that we will solve all the crime here, but already we have found arms, ammunition and drugs. Such operations give people a sense of assurance and confidence in law enforcement.”
Chief of Defence Staff Kenrick Maharaj told reporters the joint exercises would continue in Malabar for as long as necessary. “We cannot afford for criminals to feel emboldened, to feel that they have the audacity to engage in activities with impunity,” he said. The roaring sound of helicopters hovering low over houses had earlier drawn residents out of their homes to observe the actions of heavily-armed soldiers and police officers.
Resident Allison Ross said she had lived on the Train Line in Malabar for the past 12 years and had never seen such a heavy police presence. “It was good seeing them today because for as long as I have lived here I have never seen this much police,” Ross said. “It is encouraging. It is nice having the police presence in the area, especially after the recent murders. I hope it will be a deterrent to the crime here.”
Some other members of the community had a different view of the situation. “Why all of a sudden are they coming here? We don’t want no politricks in Malabar,” a woman shouted. Asked if she was unhappy with the police in her neighbourhood, the woman said she would have been happy if she wasn’t convinced it was a ploy for the media. “They come here once in a blue moon and expect something to happen?”
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