Some Big Fish will be “taken down” before year’s end.
That’s the promise from National Security Minister Stuart Young in the next wave of security operations.
“There are charges which will be laid,” Young assured on Tuesday in the Senate while speaking about the police’s use of the anti-gang law and other anti-crime legislation.
Young spoke about these and other developments while responding to a motion by UNC Senator Taharqa Obika on crime. Obika had called for a strategic crime prevention plan to address unacceptable crime levels in T&T.
But Young countered with a list of developments on security, also disclosing issues which he said the US and UK authorities had with the past People’s Partnership (PP) administration on security.
Young said crime had become a “political football” and people were trying to instil fear. Young said latest police figures showed that one of the measurements of crime—serious crime incidents—showed such crimes were down from 6,620 over the January to June 2018 period to 5,712 in the same period this year.
Young said the Police Service will be using the anti-gang legislation for investigations against criminals “living a life of crime.” He noted under the law, officers are given special powers including to enter premises, arrest people and those harbouring criminals and to question people.
“And it will lead to charges, there will be Big Fish taken down in the next set of operations before year’s end,” he said.
“Big Fish” is a term which pertains to the major crime figures or untouchables who have been referred to in the previous PNM administration when crime and kidnapping for ransom had spiked. It was referenced during the PP administration’s 2011 state of emergency. Most recently, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith also used the term to take down gang leaders and white-collar criminals.
Young also announced that on Monday, the UK’s travel advisory had upgraded T&T, taking this country off the list of places where a terrorist attack was likely. T&T had been on that list since 2017 after police claimed they uncovered a plot to disrupt Carnival activities.
“They told us it was because of all the work we would have done in close proximity with them and the co-operation. The Police Commissioner, Chief of Defence Staff and myself went to London in January, met with all the intelligence agencies. They have been rating us on the work we’ve been doing in the past few years. Today, T&T has an upgrade,” he added.
On Obika’s concerns about Venezuelan criminals “hiding” in T&T, Young said, “A special unit will be implemented to deal not only with Venezuelans but all foreign criminal elements.
“The gang member (Obika alluded to) we found him. I’ve signed his deportation order and he’ll be deported,” the minister said.
Young also discounted claims by the Siparia corporation chairman and other councillors that thousands and boatloads of Venezuelans continued arriving after the recent two-week registration exercise. “The day after June 14 when it ended, the radar system showed only one vessel that attempted to enter from Venezuela,” Young said.
He said he had advised security officials to use the radar system, analyse data, the coastline and entry points as there are pathways people use repeatedly.
“We found the points of entry and that’s where we drove our limited resources. We’ve been picking up a lot of the illegal arms and ammunitions. Yesterday morning there was a big find of marijuana on a boat out there.”
Young said yesterday he met the US Transport Security Agency (TSA) which gave the Piarco systems a clean bill of health, this after being at risk for some time.
“I sat with the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), FBI and other bodies and they said they would have gone into a very dark patch in T&T’s history. They didn’t know who to speak to and who they could trust so they just stopped sharing information altogether. But we’ve worked on rebuilding relations and there is now free flow of intelligence and training; a situation that never existed before,” Young said.
He said the US Government also told his administration that it had spent millions training T&T officers in ballistic testing and asked for systems to be re-established after the PP dismantled it.
Young claimed the UK had also asked the former Government not to dismantle systems against transnational organised crime and they agreed since the UK had threatened to slap visas on T&T nationals.