If T&T fails to reduce the present number of its active gang members—currently estimated to be 10,000—Police Commissioner Gary Griffith fears this figure may mushroom to “100,000” in a few years.
This was what he told a Joint Select Committee into National Security as they examined the operations of the Police Service.
Griffith said the bulk of major crime in T&T involved gang activity which the TTPS had been trying to combat.
He estimated that there were between “5,000 to 10,000 gang members in T&T.”
Of the 517 homicides last year, Griffith said, 75 per cent was related to gang warfare and reprisal killings.
“But as much as the Police Service can deal with that, what is going to happen in the next few years, where you have persons between the ages of ten to 14 who would want to imitate their big brothers, their fathers, their friends we might really have 100,000 gang members.”
JSC Member Dennis Ramdeen asked Griffith why the anti-gang legislation, which came into effect in May 2018, had resulted in few arrests, which had frustrated the public.
Deputy Commissioner Harold Phillip defended the TTPS position saying that they have been investigating a number of cases to deal with the legislation.
“Hopefully in the near future, certainly we will see much more prosecution taking place,” Phillip said.
The TTPS has charged seven individuals under the anti-gang legislation.
Griffith also apologised to the national community for the March 23, 2015 day of Total Policing which led to a shut down of the country, stating that the TTPS made an error by this move, promising the public that such an incident will not happen again under his watch..
“I think the first thing we have to do is accept it. We made an error. What I can say it should not have happened,” the top cop said.
Admitting that the TTPS has not been responding to reports in a timely fashion, Griffith gave the assurance that in the next few months the service will make a major turn around.
The first transformation would involve members of the public not calling the TTPS’s 77 police stations to make a report, but instead E999 which will respond within seconds.
“That 999 is going to be immediately linked to a dispatch officer. There will be nine dispatch officers for each of the nine divisions. The dispatch officer will look at the calls and analyse the serious nature of the call.”
Each call will be categorised into three levels- with three being urgent.
Griffith said each division will have between eight to ten vehicles to respond to the public’s calls.
This would exclude the station’s current fleet.
The nine vehicles, Griffith said, will be monitored through a command centre and a commissioner’s command centre.
“What this will do is provide high visibility, rapid response and a heavy deterrent. The dispatch officer will know where the vehicles are. He can now ensure that vehicles do not break the speed limit which citizens have expressed concern about or can tell if the vehicle is parked in an area too long.”
Griffith also disclosed that there would be a change in the TTPS’ uniform and badges in a few months.
He said the implementation of 100 body cameras, pepper spray and training in the use of tasers for officers will begin in February.