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Social media app for crime tips coming
National Security Minister Edmund Dillon is asking citizens to bear patience with the police as they combat a recent upsurge in gang violence across Trinidad.
Speaking with media personnel after a walkabout in several communities of east Port-of-Spain ravaged by gang warfare, Dillon said while the Government and the protective services had implemented measures to address the issue, citizens should not expect instant results.
“This is something we have been treating with over time. We would not get up tomorrow and it would be fixed,” Dillon said as he noted that he and other Government ministers would continue to embark on tours such as the one yesterday, in order to solicit feedback on crime fighting measures.
“It is a work in progress. We have to continue to work and make various kinds of interventions within the communities,” he added.
He revealed that the Government would be introducing a national crime prevention programme, which specifically deals with issues affecting individual communities as well as a social media application, which would allow citizens to make anonymous tips to police.
He also said that joint patrols with police officers and members of the T&T Defence Force will resume in the cities of Port-of-Spain, Chaguanas and San Fernando and for the first time, along the coast of the south western peninsula.
“This is nothing new. It is something that was there and we are going to re-establish to make sure they are back on the streets as a deterrent for those who are bent on bringing mayhem,” Dillon said.
He also noted that police would continue their illegal firearm drive, which saw the seizure of 1,064 fire arms, last year, and over 500 for the year, thus far.
Dillon’s sentiments were echoed by Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General Fitzgerald Hinds, who is MP for the communities toured yesterday.
Hinds suggested that police were being hampered by the fact that T&T’s main gangs Rasta City and Muslims, used the Rastafarian faith and Islam, to differentiate their criminal syndicates.
Hinds said: “You now have a situation where criminals pretending to be Muslims and Rastas are waging war with each other in this country. It is creating complexity for the police because as the police approach them, they must bear in mind the constitutional protection they have as a religion.”
He also noted that from their talks with members of the communities, many innocent citizens were being caught in the crossfire of both gangs.
“In many cases the people living in those communities are neither Rasta or Muslim. They don’t even know the boundaries that these criminals have set up, so there is real confusion and complexity here,” Hinds said.
He also called upon citizens to continue to partner with the protective services in the fight against crime. “We the law-abiding people, along with the Defence Force and the police need to come together and team up against those who are creating this mayhem and trauma and interfering with economic development and giving the country a bad rap,” Hinds said.
During their tour of the communities, Dillon, Hinds, acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams and Chief of Defence Staff Hayden Pritchard attempted to speak with residents of the community including the family of 16-year-old Joshua James, who was killed in a triple murder near his home at Old St Joseph Road in Laventille, last Friday.
They were only able to have conversations with a handful, as many merely watched them and their entourage of heavily-armed soldiers and police from a distance.
Ingelbert Augustine, a shop owner from Erica Street, Laventille, was one of the few who was willing to speak to the group in front of the media. Augustine explained that gang warfare left residents as virtual prisoners in their homes.
“People afraid to buy, people afraid to walk down the street, people fear for their lives, people just in fear. The main issue is that innocent people are dying for nothing,” Augustine said as he recalled a recent incident in which an off-duty policeman was shot in a driveby shooting.
Ronald Alexander, of Rock City Circular, Laventille, admitted that his community fell under the Muslim gang.
However, he claimed that gang members in the community were merely retaliating to attacks by the rival Rasta City gang on them and innocent members of their community. “I and all want to know what we fighting over. It does just be revenge. Is this one loss he family and that one, so is so it going back and forth,” Alexander said.
As he was asked by the officials for suggestions on how to address the issue in his community, Alexander said more facilities and job opportunities were needed in the community.
“Even if we get a job outside, we can not leave here so. They will kill us when we going to work or coming home,” he said.
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