San Fernando Jama Masjid worshippers hid in their mosque on Wednesday night when a man walked onto the masjid’s compound and killed the son of a popular People’s National Movement (PNM) activist.
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Tech tools in crime fight unveiled
Gary Griffith’s claim that his new national security setup could put down an attempted coup within an hour came after he had given the media a tour of the new Emergency Dispatch Centre in St James—an exercise designed to show the investment in technology his ministry has made.
He also officially unveiled the Community Comfort Patrol pilot scheme involving trained officers from private security firms.
His comments came in the wake of 18 arrests at the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen’s Carapo mosque last week, inciting the Jamaat leader Yasin Abu Bakr to angrily announce in a radio interview that he would take “appropriate action” against Griffith, Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams and Inspector Roger Alexander, if such police activity continued. At the media exercise, at the St James Police Academy on Thursday, Griffith said gang-related activity in the “hotspots” of Laventille had reduced in the past few days, due to the activity of the T&T Defence Force and the T&T Police Service, but that the national security alert remained at the same level.
Earlier, Griffith had cut the ribbon of a high-tech, fully kitted-out emergency response call centre and explained the function of the red-shirted Community Comfort Patrol (CCP) officers which the leader of the opposition, Dr Keith Rowley, expressed mystification about at a PNM public meeting in St Augustine on Tuesday. Rowley had described seeing two officers assigned to that unit in an “unmarked” car on his road as he left his house and described them as “untrained, unknown people driving around in strange cars pretending to be police.”
He demanded that the government explain who they were, what they were authorised to do and how much the scheme was costing.
The Ministry of National Security responded by hastily calling the press conference two days later which answered Rowley’s questions. The CCP patrol officers are trained, Griffith said, but will have no powers of arrest and will not carry guns.
Their remit is to cruise areas which do not have their own privately funded Neighbourhood Watch schemes in discreetly marked pick-up trucks, acting as “extra eyes and ears” and as a form of deterrence. These private officers, he said, will inform the National Operations Centre or police officers when they observe crime taking place. The CCP patrol team will consist of employees from four private security firms—G4S, Amalgamated, Innovative and Protective Security Services—and the pilot scheme is costing the government $5.2m for an initial four month period.
Asked whether there was a tendering process, Keith Renaud, Director of the Office of Law Enforcement Policy, said the contracts were assigned by “selective tendering, as mandated by Cabinet.”