Once a warm, family-oriented and peace-loving community, Enterprise in Chaguanas was turned into a crime hotspot over the years, forcing residents to install burglar-proofing, security cameras and purchase vicious guard dogs to keep their families safe.
However, this was not enough to save Alana Mohammed, 38, who was shot and killed around 6 am on February 13 at her Dass Trace home, as she got into her vehicle to take her 13-year-old daughter to school. The daughter was injured during the incident and is hospitalised. Investigations are continuing.
For some residing in the area, they have simply accepted the change in the status quo but for people like MP Fazal Karim, it is one he is not willing to blithely accept. More than a year now, Karim and other community groups have been working to cool down the hotspot community.
Heartened by the period of quiet which had descended on the area before Mohammed’s murder, Karim said, "I am happy to say there has been a period of quiet, but I believe much more can be done." Karim said he was dismayed after learning that on January 21—17-year-old Daniel Dember was shot and killed at a mini-mart along Chrissie Terrace, Enterprise.
Karim said Dember had migrated to the Enterprise community some time ago.
Actively seeking out ways he can change the area’s negative reputation and influence young unemployed men away from a life of crime, Karim plans to establish the Enterprise Trade School which will offer free skills training for both men and women who have not been able to secure employment for one reason or another.
Karim said, "It is something I am looking forward to. I have already written letters to the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries for state lands to construct the school.
"I already have corporate citizens willing to assist with the construction, and we have located tutors because we have completed the needs-analysis survey and the labour market survey. It will not be for the residents of Enterprise but the entire community."
Indicating his plan to construct it along the train line in Enterprise, Karim said it would be centrally located to enable easy access.
During an interview at his constituency office in Chaguanas, Karim admitted Enterprise was under "heavy focus" by the authorities.
Karim said, "With respect to crime and criminality, I am one of those that truly believe that education and training is what is critically important as a crime fighting strategy."
Acknowledging that laws and the protective services were the other two most critical components to reducing crime, Karim said, "The changing of the mindset, the culture, the psychology of the people is necessary to effect change. If we can groom young boys and girls from now, especially at the primary and pre-school levels, what we would be doing is making sure the game changers of the future develop a different mindset."
Saying these people were the future leaders of T&T, Karimadde that he has been providing free skills training for his constituents in the areas of automation, aviation, cosmetology, business development, carpentry, and construction—which includes masonry, electrical, plumbing, and tiling.
Back in 2011 when former prime minister Kamla Persad Bissessar implemented a limited State of Emergency in a bid to get crime under control, Enterprise was among those listed as a hotspot area.
Anxiety as gangs increase in Arima
Residents of Calvary and Pinto are concerned about the sudden increase in gangs and gang activity.
Guardian Media was able to confirm with officials within the Arima borough and senior police officers that the number of gangs in operation had increased in that community.
Concerned that gang members were now actively seeking to recruit students from several secondary schools in the area, a senior official urged students to, "Resist all attempts to get you into that lifestyle."
Indicating they are working overtime to return Arima to the safe place it was, one official explained, "To turn people's attention away from crime, they have to be occupied. Once they are engaged meaningfully, they will have less time to focus on other activities."
Pointing to their efforts to get younger people within the Arima community involved in positive activities, the official said they had been using sports and music as two areas to encourage them to turn away from crime.
He said, "We are hoping this will cause young people who are targets for some of these criminal enterprises to turn away and focus on healthy and positive activities."
Meanwhile, the officials said they were also moving to increase job opportunities for younger people in Arima as another way to keep them away from a life of crime.