A total of 462 persons have been arrested in this week's state of emergency operations, including two persons described as two of T&T's "biggest gang leaders", who were arrested at the Hyatt Hotel, Port-of-Spain, yesterday morning. The two had booked into the hotel's US$1,600 (TT$9,600) a night presidential suite since last Sunday when the state of emergency was announced, a Government spokesman confirmed. The spokesman said the location of the persons became known after they engaged numerous call girls during the week. The two, along with a female gang member, were arrested yesterday by security forces in the operation "Disrupt and Dismantle Gangs", which has been mounted since the state of emergency began. Government yesterday described it as a "major breakthrough" in operations.
At yesterday's daily media briefing at the National Security Ministry, Port-of-Spain, Minister John Sandy said among the multiple arrests of the last 24 hours, were two "notorious" gang leaders. Sandy said a third gang leader, who fled to Tobago, also was arrested. He said even though people were migrating to other areas, security forces also had those covered. On whether a national threat from criminals was still imminent, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said: "Unless and until violent crime was reduced, the state of emergency is one that is bearing fruit." Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs gave the cumulative total of 462 detainees for the week. Gibbs said this included 190 gang leaders in the operation "to disrupt and dismantle gangs".
Gibbs said the last 24-hour operation figure had netted 147 more people. Of this number 75 were related to gangs. Gibbs also noted eight others (involved in homicides), 21 (drug-related offences) four (curfew-breaking), one (firearm-related offences), 19 (serious offences), four (outstanding warrants) and 150 rounds of ammunition seized. While Gibbs declined details of the Hyatt arrests, a Government spokesman said the two persons arrested yesterday were from one of the biggest gangs in T&T. They said the unit was involved in drug-trafficking and gun-running and had ties extending to North and South America. The gang is based in east Port-of-Spain/Laventille, they added.
A spokesman involved in yesterday's arrests said the gang members were among a number who had checked into the hotel last weekend and were "coming and going." They said orders were placed at "some of the finest restaurants for champagne and food" during the persons' stay. The spokesman said those arrested included a female gang member, listed in the gang's "corporate structure" as the gang's "public relations officer", earning a salary of $35,000 monthly. At yesterday's media briefing, Ramlogan said the perception of gangs should not be confined to places like Nelson Street or "The Plannings".
Ramlogan added: "You'll be shocked at where some of them are housed and the extent of the luxury in which they live. Check their bank accounts, the carat of gold they wear, the amount of house they buy in cash and the number of girlfriends they 'minding.' "They have four and five residences and they move from place to place. "He said local studies show dominant gangs have a leader and sub-commanders and also had "cells". Some often overwhelmed some gangs by violence, bringing in guns to recruit youths. Ramlogan added: "The cash they get from crime, some are used to establish dance halls and nightclubs. They promote fetes and concerts, bringing in foreign artistes, and make millions. They sponsor community activities like basketball tournaments.
"Some form legitimate businesses and promise jobs. They don't wear a jacket and tie but they have more money than the man in jacket and tie," Ramlogan added. He said casinos had reported that they earned $600,000 to $700,00 nightly from gang members. Ramlogan said the gangs' structure was copied from American counterparts and some had a "board of directors" in their big business operations. Gibbs said police had to sort through all the people and evidence obtained, so far, "so who's who in the zoo will take a little work," he added. "So far we are seeing successes. During the time of the state of emergency there has been some crime but to a limited extent and we intend to continue dismantling the gangs," Gibbs said.