The police raids on Thursday which resulted in the arrests of 15 members of three major gangs, including the reputed leader of the Sixx gang, can’t be counted as a victory, not even a small one.
Those arrests, in response to the recent upsurge in shootings in Belmont and St Ann’s, represent only a single, tiny incursion into T&T’s deeply entrenched criminal gang culture, just scratching the surface of the underworld activities taking place in almost every part of the country.
Of course, the T&T Police Service (TTPS) is putting the best possible spin on this development, describing the operation as a “gang sweep” in and around Port-of-Spain.
A senior officer, who spoke off the record, said the raids had “been in the works for quite some time but it takes time to gather intelligence and information.”
The unidentified officer further claimed, “We are doing something to stop this bloodshed and it is intended to be a message to the gangs that they are not in control. We, the police, are still very much in control.”
Whether or not the TTPS indeed has gained the upper hand in this battle against criminal gangs is debatable.
Taking 15 gangsters into custody is just the first step. The bigger challenge will be laying of charges and securing convictions — delivering the kind of measurable results that are few and far between in the criminal justice system.
Even more critical is whether this handful of arrests will result in a de-escalation of the gang killings and almost daily reports of drive-by shootings, multiple killings and executions of criminal rivals.
Still, kudos should be extended to the TTPS for making a small bit of progress in efforts to break the stranglehold of gangs in communities in the capital. While nowhere near the significant inroads promised by Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher, it is a small step in the right direction.
The challenge now is to build on that momentum with further targeted raids to dismantle gang infrastructure.
It is likely to be a Herculean uphill struggle, since gangs seem to have dug their tentacles into some sections of the TTPS. How else can one explain the murder of 28-year-old Kevon “Bumbles” Moses outside the Belmont Police Station on Monday, when the killers were on spot to execute him as he was released and stepped out the station.
Dealing with that and other brutal gang-related killings, in addition to intercepting the steady flow of guns and drugs that fuel their criminal activities, not to mention cutting off their connections to transnational crime enterprises, demands much more than a few exercises and some arrests.
And to date, CoP Harewood-Christopher and her team have not demonstrated they are bringing the situation under control.
There are now about 140 gangs operating throughout the country and, just as had been forecast in the Strategic Services Agency’s (SSA) 2021 security report, there has been a new crime wave following the emergence of newer, more volatile gangs.
So now, in addition to the larger Rasta City and Muslim gangs, small crime groups — Tyson, EBG (Everybody Gets It), SIXX, Seven, Boombay Gang and Police — are on a bloody rampage across the country.
It is a situation that needs to be brought under control swiftly, as the murder count, currently at 508, looks set to race past last year’s bloody record.