The cold, calculated murders of eight people in Arima and St Augustine on Wednesday, prove that gang activity and violence in this country is far from over and is becoming worse each passing year.
Two women, two teenagers and four men met their deaths in horrific and heinous manners in three separator attacks all connected to each other, according to the police. In one incident, the killer chased a victim from a vehicle, over a wall into bushes, where the victim was seeking refuge, and continued shooting.
There is no doubt that some of the victims may have been innocent casualties and were killed because they were in close proximity to the intended targets. But that it was the result of gang violence is irrefutable.
Unfortunately, citizens have been witness to such brazen and ghastly violence time and time again.
Many can recount scampering for safety as warring gangs exchanged gunfire at mid-day in the heart of Port-of-Spain, in full view of passers-by, or recalled incidents where innocent bystanders were killed as gangsters shot indiscriminately with no care for whom they hurt or injured.
Wednesday’s violence was yet another indication of this, as the attackers showed no regard for the State of Emergency the country is currently under and operated under the expectancy that there would be no consequences for their actions.
Not even being close to one of the holiest places - Mount St Benedict - stopped the gangsters’ rampage.
Over the years, gangs have mushroomed in this country. From 2005-2006, there were 95 reported gangs with just over 1,000 members. In 2019, that figure ballooned to 211 gangs operating with over 2,400 members.
But earlier this year, the Attorney General claimed there was a reduction in gang membership, saying last year there were 129 gangs in operation with a little over 1,000 members. This, the AG said, was proof the Anti-Gang Bill and other measures were working.
While that may be the case, even with the police making gains in arresting and charging gang leaders and their followers, lives are still being savagely taken away. And charges do not equate to convictions.
Communities continue to live under the thumb or, more fittingly in this instance, the gun of gangsters who have riddled everyday life with fear.
Areas like St John’s Road, St Augustine, which were largely free from such nefarious activity, are now regarded as “hotspots” with young men and women drawn to a life of crime.
Aside from recent legislation, including the Proceeds of Crime Act, successive governments have attempted several initiatives to guide youngsters away from gang and criminal activity.
Despite these efforts, some are still lured to a life of criminality and are often protected by relatives and even communities, which only serve to fuel and perpetuate the cycle of violence.
The bloodshed on Wednesday should provide a wake-up call to citizens that we can no longer simply shrug our shoulders and allow gang violence to be woven into the fabric of our lives.
We can ill-afford at this time, especially while we are battling COVID-19, to allow gangsters to turn the nation into their killing fields...once again.