Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds has described as “heinous, violent and a tragic state of affairs”, the brutal murder of four young people and injury to five others at La Retreat Extension in the Heights of Guanapo, Arima, on Thursday.
The siblings, Faith Peterkin, 10, Arrianna Peterkin, 14, Shane Peterkin, 17, and Tiffany Peterkin, 19, were gunned down at their Gravel Road, La Retreat Extension home around 12.25 am on Thursday as they were asleep. Five other people were shot but survived.
In an interview with Guardian Media at the 2023 National Youth Awards at the Hyatt Regency hotel hours after the incident on Thursday, Hinds said just like the entire society, he was appalled and stunned by the gruesome attack.
“It was a very heinous and violent situation again, consistent with trends not only in Trinidad and Tobago but across the region, the use of firearms, most likely illegal,” Hinds said.
“Four persons lost their lives today, three teenagers and a ten-year-old. It’s a very tragic state of affairs, as I said, reflecting the levels of violence that exist, reflecting the presence of illegal firearms in the country and reflecting a general state of affairs that is very painfully undesirable. So, I am confident that the police will pursue this investigation to the depths of it and I’m really hoping that they can find the perpetrators and do what police have to do, prosecute them and let them account for their dastardly actions before the courts of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Referring to the lack of compassion for children in the attack, Hinds added, “Man’s inhumanity to man is becoming more and more evident by the hour, so something is happening to human beings generating those kinds of behaviours.”
He again asserted that illegal guns remained a scourge in Trinidad and Tobago and noted that more military officials may be deployed to curtail crime in the weeks ahead. He also revealed his ministry was earmarked to receive a sizeable allocation in the upcoming budget to ensure that the borders were secured.
“Recently, we have put even more (soldiers) out there to assist the police in trying to restrain the criminality that is affecting us. They are out there and perhaps in the next few weeks you might even see more,” Hinds said.
“Today (yesterday), for example, I had the joy of seeing a substantial amount of money to be targeted to a very, very critical element for me in national security as we try to improve the border security, because I told you that criminality that you saw last night in the Arima area, it reflected a trend where illegal firearms are used in 87 per cent of the murders that we have experienced,” he added.
Hinds also sought to remind the public that a vetted unit would be established in conjunction with the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations to target the transnational guns trade.
Contacted for comment on the minister’s proposal to arrest crime, which has seemingly worsened with recent reports of mass shootings and multiple fatalities, criminologist Dr Randy Seepersad said joint exercises between the police and military were welcomed.
Seepersad said sporadic patrols may deter criminals but noted that it may not have prevented the Guanapo massacre.
In addition, he said, the increase in funding towards border security was a positive step in the right direction, as T&T has experienced an influx of weapons from both North and South America.
“What matters is how you utilise that and how you focus it as well, because the borders are very large and even if there’s a substantial increase in funding, it wouldn’t allow us to fully patrol the borders. What we need to start to think about is what means would be effective. For instance, could there be some kind of electronic monitoring of the borders, even let’s say good use of satellite imagery,” he said.
Dr Seepersad said the trafficking of persons also remained an area of concern, spelling possible “disaster” for a nation already grappling with high reports of violence.
Careful not to stigmatise an entire ethnic group, the criminologist said Venezuelan gang leaders were also making their way to this country.
“You’re talking about the possibility of inter-gang rivalries between Venezuelan gangs and local gangs, so it could spell disaster and it’s well known that some South American gangs, they’re far more violent than the gangs we have here,” he said.