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COP at JSC: Crime affecting corporations
While crime was being discussed at yesterday’s Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting, scores of protesters gathered outside Parliament to voice their concern over government’s inefficiency, including its handling of the crime situation. The San Juan/Laventille and Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporations appeared before the committee, headed by Independent Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan.
The San Juan/Laventille corporation, which appeared first was represented by its various members, including CEO Kenwyn Pantin, chairman Anthony Roberts and principal medical and health officer Dr Raphael How Chung. The corporation’s municipal police inspector Wendell Guzman said what was urgently needed was better communication between municipal officers and the Police Service.
He said the present strength was 24 officers of various ranks. The constables, Guzman said, were Special Reserve officers who could leave at any time. He identified the area surrounding the Croisee as being known for “piping,” The high crime rate has also affected work being done at the corporation including the delivery of services, the committee heard.
“Definitely there is a problem in relation to the delivery of services in areas such as Laventille. Often times, you have to provide police escort to get the daily chores done and this takes away from daily patrols. “Another problem we are having is wireless communication with the central police ...in case of emergency we don’t have any wireless communication with the central police, so things may be happening or happening around us and we are not aware,” Guzman said.
He said police were equipped with modern weapons, as opposed to municipal officers who had to work with pistols and shotguns. To compound matters immigrants particularily from Jamaica and Guyana were also adding to the crime situation. “Just recently we arrested six illegal immigrants in a house in San Juan where illegal activities were taking place,” Guzman said. Judy Thompson, who is the inspector assigned to the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation, echoed similar concerns.
“To start with, Tunapuna itself is a hotspot. We have the housing communities like Malabar, La Horquetta, and some of these areas north of Tunapuna and in Arouca also are hotspots,” Thompson added. She said when problems were encountered help was often required from the Police Service. Saying there was a shortage of municipal officers, Thompson said the sanctioned strength of 14 officers was never granted and to cover all the areas there was a need for 48.
“I came in 2010, where I met only seven officers. Right now we have four officers, one pregnant person, no driver, the inspector, the sergeant and two corporals. “I try, with the little staff I have, to accompany the health inspectors, to accompany the litter wardens,” Thompson said. She said there was a recruitment process taking place but was unsure where that process had reached.
When the building inspector had to serve notices, Thompson said, she would get a corporation driver to accompany him but this arrangement was not safe. On the issue of vending, Thompson said this was becoming a sore point, especially along the highways.