Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday described the latest anti-crime plans announced by the Government as plain “public relations”.
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Johnny Abraham talks tough on Central Division police killings
What appeared to be a recruitment drive in Central Trinidad by Rasta City and the Muslims, two Port-of-Spain based gangs, was nipped in the bud recently when the police arrested two key players and slapped some 34 shooting and gun charges on them. “This will keep them busy in the courts for a long time,” head of the Central Division of the Police Service, Johnny Abraham told the Guardian yesterday.
He said about a month ago, Enterprise, Chaguanas was the scene of a “little war” between Rasta City and the Muslims. Rasta City is reportedly based in Beetham Gardens and the Muslims in Laventille. National security sources told the Guardian the gangs are viewing their rivalry as “a sort of Christian/Muslim war”. “They were shooting at people on the road in Crown Trace, Enterprise. About four or five people were shot but no one was killed,” Abraham said.
He said officers in the division heard “on the ground” that Rasta City, with the aid of connections in Enterprise, was coming to Central. “We heard a certain clip in the Muslims was trying to get men from Rasta City to join them. They were trying to recruit new members or something. “Them fellas does call meetings, you know. We were informed of a meeting of certain leaders in Arima which men from Central attended.”
Abraham admitted there is some gang migration but insisted Port-of-Spain gangs have “not really infiltrated” Central. “When things hot in Port-of-Spain, they run down here. When things hot here, they run back Port-of-Spain. “But we are keeping our heads on the ground. We want no gangs on Central except Cepep and URP gangs.” Crime tracking Web site Bullet Points says there have been some 20 murders in the Central Division for the year.
Abraham, noting he has to confirm those figures, said many of the murders that took place in the division this year were crimes of passion and several of them were of the nature that the police could not pre-empt. Bullet Points records the 20 people were either shot, beaten, stabbed or strangled. Giving an example of the kinds of murders the police cannot avoid, he said, “For instance, you had two men arguing inside a house over money and one stabbed the other.
“There was no previous report of domestic violence or court matters. In another case, a man strangled his wife and drank poison. There was no sign of domestic violence beforehand to warn the police. There are some murders you just can’t get a grip on. “A man was shot and killed in a bar in Couva by another man passing in a car and shooting at the crowd.” And some of the intentional homicides were drugs-related, he said.
“A known drugs dealer in Chase Village was shot and killed in Enterprise but we still were not able to ascertain a clear motive for the murder. A big gold chain was missing from his neck so we don’t know if it was a robbery.” On his plan to deal with murders in the Central Division, Abraham said the police try to take proactive measures. “From the time we hear an area is hot, we move in one time and try to recover firearms.
“Also, on a weekly basis, we do about 1,500 stop and search exercises and regular road blocks anywhere, anytime. This prevents people from travelling with firearms from one area to another.” Abraham recalled the recent shootings in The Wall on Orange Field Road in Chase Village, in which one man was shot and killed by the police and an officer injured. “We picked up about three firearms and since them we have not had a single report from The Wall.
“One or two creatures were trying to raise their heads in Couva but we moved in and dealt with that.” In the midst of the public outcry against murders committed by criminals, there is also indignation over the number of alleged criminals being killed by the police. National Security Minister Gary Griffith said you have to fight fire with fire and police killings of reported criminals are on the increase.
Of the 30 police killings recorded in 2014, eleven occurred in Central, second only to the North-Eastern Division, which recorded 14 for the same period. Abraham was unapologetic. “People are free to commit crime and when they are cornered by the police they can surrender. “I beg them to surrender. But anytime they engage my officers (in shootouts) I deal decisively with them. They have no respect for law and order.
“Three of my officers were shot by criminals. One is still on sick leave because the tendon on his arm has not healed.” Commenting on the protests in Laventille over the police killing of 19-year old Keshorn Daniel, Abraham said, “Some parents are too dishonest. “If parents put down their foot and talk to their children every day, they may prevent them from going down a wrong road. “Some are aware their children are liming with criminal elements.
Their children not working anywhere and coming home in the night with a TV and they not asking them anything. “Even all this talk about an evil lurking over children in the land. Parents are naturally careless,” Abraham said.