Gang-related violence was responsible for most of the murders committed in 2008. Out of 545 homicides reported for the year, 365 were gang-related, Deputy Commissioner of Police Gilbert Reyes said yesterday, and officials were hoping that the figure would not reach 550 in light of last night's New Year's celebrations throughout the country.
Therefore, 67 per cent of the 2008 murder toll was due to gang violence, he said. Reyes also said that at just 14 years, some children were leaving secondary schools, joining gangs and engaging in serious criminal activity. Reyes was speaking at a news conference at the Police Administration Building in Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
"Kids are leaving the secondary school system...those who are
unemployable are graduating to gangs," Reyes said. "We are speaking about kids who are 17, 16 and 14, are gang members and doing serious criminal activities," Reyes said. "The crimes are more violent and gangs become stronger," he said.
Reyes said the murder toll last year stood at 386, which had increased by 157. There were also 32 homicides which were reportedly drug-related. "It has increased especially in the Port-of-Spain Division...With all the police activity, we didn't get the results that we wanted," Reyes said.
"We are looking to cut the supply of gangs because many children are leaving the school system and graduating into gangs," Reyes said.
He also mentioned a secondary school in the Port-of-Spain area in which many children were being influenced by gang activity. "A principal called me and expressed her problem," Reyes said. He said it was a challenging year for law enforcement officers, with the increase in crime.
The deputy commissioner said they were formulating new steps to deal with the rise in gang-related activities. He said anti-gang talks with the Los Angeles police were ongoing. When asked if the Police Service had confidence in the Los Angeles police, Reyes said, "We have to do something...We have spoken with them (gangs), run them down and arrest them.
"We need to see how to cope and bring change," he said. Assistant Commissioner of Police Raymond Craig said there were operations ongoing to focus on crime reduction. "To make the country safe and win back the country, we need to focus on the proliferation of firearms and prevention, detection and the seizure of firearms," he said.