The high concentration of crime in some very specific areas across the country have created “no-go” zones not just for warring gang members and the general public but for service providers and delivery service employees.
As a consequence, those living in crime-ridden communities suffer not just from violence and fear but also from a lack of access to services that other communities freely enjoy.
Earlier this week, taxi service TTRideShare announced it had halted its operations in East Port-of-Spain due to the area’s high level of crime and attacks on its drivers working in the area.
While the move had some raising eyebrows, checks by Guardian Media have revealed that TTRideShare was not the first service provider to designate “no-go” areas for their service.
And where there is no alternative but to send employees into those areas, service providers have to fork out extra for police and security details to accompany their workers on the field.
Internet and phone service provider Flow confirmed to Guardian Media on Tuesday that its employees do not go into East Port-of-Spain without a police presence.
Flow’s Corporate Communication’s manager, Yolande Agard-Simmons promised to give a full list of “no-go” areas.
However, in an emailed response, Agard-Simmons said: “As a responsible organisation that values its people resource, we take proactive steps to protect both our people and property to the benefit of the customers we serve. There are notable areas across the island where security is a legitimate concern, and in serving our customers in a timely manner, we sometimes engage the services of the T&T Police Service or private security officials to accompany our technicians when conducting installation or repair works.”
She did not provide a list of areas but said assessments are before field visits to determine whether security is necessary for employees.
State utilities like the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) and the T&T Electricity Commission (T&TEC) have over the years also had to provide security and police escorts for employees working in certain “hot spot” areas across the country.
In an interview on Wednesday, T&TEC’s Corporate Communications manager Anabelle Brasnell did not identify any specific areas but said over the years, the commission has found it necessary to make special security arrangements for employees on duty in some areas.
Brasnell said despite this, there was no area where T&TEC employees do not go.
“We have to work everywhere, so whatever procedures we have to put in place to get the jobs done, we do that. I can’t go into what our security processes are, that is just not wise but we are required to work all over the country and whatever is required for us to get the job done in any community, we do what we have to do to get the job done,” Brasnell said.
She said the need for a police escort was determined by the time and exact location where T&TEC employees need to be in a community.
However she said more often than not, T&TEC’s security arm will accompany its other employees out on the field.
“I can confirm that we do have security who are full-time employees of the commission and their responsibility is to protect plant and persons, we have that already built into the system.”
She could not say what the cost of external security measures amounted to. Several private sector companies have adopted another strategy to cope with the unpredictable crime surges—they employ members of the community so their representatives are not “outsiders” in the communities.
Sales Manager of RAMCO Industries Limited, one of the largest distributors of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) or cooking gas, Sean De Souza told Guardian Media this strategy has been working so far for RAMCO.
De Souza said none of their operations have been halted because of crime.
“Some of our employees are sent to work in areas where they are from, so they are well know,” De Souza said.
Kiss Baking Company, meanwhile said they have built relationships in every “nook and cranny” of the country and have not had to stop service to any areas due to high crime rates as their employees have good interactions with the communities.
Maloney resident Sonja Vaughn told Guardian Media that although internet service provider Green Dot provides internet in Maloney, its technicians will not come into the area for maintenance without police presence.
In contrast, Chaguanas resident Arlene Lougheed said she had never experienced being turned down by service providers in the Central community where she lives.
However another Central resident, who asked not to be identified, said when she contacted Flow for maintenance for her internet system was told she would have wait for seven days for a technician to visit her home in Enterprise due to security concerns.
She said eventually someone who was a technician for the company and lived in the same community volunteered to do the job and her service was restored.
South “no-go” zones
Given the crime situation in the country, there are also certain areas in Marabella, San Fernando and La Romaine where utility companies do not venture without some form of protection, whether they be in-house security or the T&T Police Service.
Some of those communities identified by police include areas of Trainline in Marabella and Corinth Hill, Tarodale, La Romaine, Claxton Bay and Penal.
However, residents in some of those communities, including Trainline, Tarodale and Embacadere said those agencies and other businesses were not at risk when they enter their communities.
Although no one wanted to go on record, a Tarodale resident said many times KFC delivered meals to her home and she said that even the gas truck works in the area.
She attributed this to the deaths of the “bad boys” in the community.
“Long time in the earlies we had that problem. In the last few years we don’t have that problem. Before that I remember the bus and the gas truck stop working in the area. It was to have lil problems but as they say most of bad boys die out. We get transportation to come in here, but mostly PH drivers. They charge $8 from San Fernando.”
At Train Line in Marabella, residents said their community has a stigma but added that “things cool down here.”
At the Housing Development Corporation apartment buildings in Embacadere, residents said years ago people, agencies and taxis were afraid to come into the area, but not anymore.
Guardian Media spoke with a T&TEC employee who said the corporation requests security when workers go to some areas in La Romaine, Dog Patch, Penal, Trainline in Marabella and Tarodale, and the majority of times the company’s Rapid Response Unit would accompany them.
In July this year, the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) issued an alert to its members, warning them to stay away from the Piccadilly Street/East Dry River area to avoid getting caught in the crossfire between rival gangs in Port-of-Spain.
DOMA said it had received reports of an open gun battle between rival gangs.
“We wish to strongly suggest that you and your personnel NOT use this route at all from the receipt of this message until we have reason to believe that the exchange of gunfire across the route has ended”, the DOMA statement had said.
The Police Service had replied to say, however, that the claims were not true and that the district was safe to traverse.