Four murders and one police killing yesterday marked the start of a bloody weekend.
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We’re not at war with Laventille
Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams yesterday settled concerns his men were at war with Laventille. Speaking at the police weekly press briefing, Williams said while the police were unrelenting in their pursuit against criminals they were not at war with the community. He said: “The TTPS has not launched any war with the Laventille community. In fact, the TTPS continues to work extensively with the people of Laventille towards improving the lives of the people within the Laventille community. “The TTPS considers the majority of persons living in the broad Laventille community to be law-abiding citizens and in that context, we would not consider the issue of launching any war against the Laventille community.
“One needs to understand there are criminal elements within the Laventille community. Those persons are in the minority. “It is critical for the Police Service to be tough on those individuals because they are causing hurt and pain of the citizens of the broad Laventille community and the citizens of this country. They are impacting in a negative way by way of their actions.” Williams’s comment contrasted to those of the North Eastern-Division Task Force and vice-president of the Police Social and Welfare Association, Insp Roger Alexander, who last Sunday said the police would launch an “all-out war” in Laventille after threats were made against the police. The threats came from Kerwin Rodriguez, whose brother Kishawn Daniel, 19, was killed by police on Saturday at Desperlie Crescent, Laventille. Reacting angrily to his brother’s death, Rodriguez had reportedly said police and their families would feel it, adding that police had to “sign out” for their guns while residents of the area did not have to do so. Residents also protested the killing, burning debris and blocking roadways in the community.
Police offering options
Two days after his initial statement, however, Rodriguez apologised but the apology was neither accepted or rejected by Alexander, who said he was there to do a job which did not include negotiating with criminals.
Responding to that directly yesterday, Williams said: “It has been reported that Inspector Alexander talked about head-on meeting with the criminals. That has to do with a situation of the Police Service not taking a position to retreat. “Criminals cannot have the upper hand on innocent citizens in this land. The reason you have a Police Service is for us to be out there providing the level of security, the protection that is necessary for the law-abiding citizens to function within a democracy.”
He added: “The Police Service will continue to confront any criminal anywhere across T&T. That’s the position of the organisation and we are not retreating from that. “Beyond that, the Police Service recognises that it is not a war we are creating with anyone, we are pursuing our lawful functions. The TTPS will continue to pursue those individuals with a clear intention to prosecute them with any of the criminal offences that they may commit but there is no war.”
Williams said the police had partnered with the community to rid it of those involved in criminal activity. He said a call from youths in St Barb’s led to the creation of “Youths For a Better Tomorrow” programme, which started in April with 60 people and now has 78. He said youth clubs were also being expanded and going into different parts of Laventille.
“We believe if we work in partnership with the law-abiding citizens of Laventille, we can see some transformation of the community, from one which has been over the years heavily built around violence, young people losing their lives as they enter into their teens and their 20s. That must stop.
“These young people can be so productive for our country if there is some intervention and the Police Service is taking leadership on such an intervention,” Williams said.