The T&T Postal Corporation (TTPost) yesterday ordered employees to desist from wearing clothing with any form of numbering which could be associated with or linked to criminal gangs across the country, fearing this could lead to them becoming targets as they move around.
In an internal memorandum dated May 16 and signed by acting Security Manager Donna Bournes, delivery leaders and officers were told the directive was based on advice from the T&T Police Service (TTPS).
The memo read, “With immediate effect, Delivery Officers are not to wear and or carry any item, clothing, shoes, caps, handbags, umbrellas or any other paraphernalia while out on delivery bearing the numbers 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 as these numbers represent different gangs across communities namely: Tyson, Rasta City, EBG, Six (6), Boombay Gang and Police.
“This has become necessary due to the accelerated gang related shootings, reprisals and other incidents within several communities, personnel are kindly asked to adhere to this policy to maintain their personal security and safely deliver the mail.”
Postal Workers Union president Shellon Trim welcomed the initiative yesterday, saying said TTPost workers traverse every part of T&T, including areas designated as crime hot spots.
While “hot spots” previously referred to select areas such as Beetham, Sea Lots, Laventille and Morvant, Trim said this was no longer the case, as any and all areas were now experiencing “explosions” of crime.
“Some of these areas have now become so dangerous that they (TTPost) would have been forced to suspend delivery in quite a few areas,” Trim said.
He described this as a telling sign of the times they were living and working in.
“As much as we would love to serve the public to the best of our ability, at the same point in time, we cannot put the lives of our members at risk, so we are in support of what the police has initiated and what they would have advised.”
He renewed calls for TTPost’s management to meet with the union to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of the entire country to determine all the high-risk areas. This, he said, is critical to finding alternative means of serving those areas which would be affected by the decision. He cited previous situations where delivery officers had been forced to change their routes due to shootings, assaults and robberies.
Trim said workers had also been warned by residents in some areas to avoid communities on certain days due to planned criminal activities.
Guardian Media was told of a recent incident in which one postal officer was walking with an umbrella with the number six on it. She was reportedly told, ‘Yuh lucky we not pelting shots behind yuh because we know yuh is TTPost...but Six is a gang area.”
Trim explained the number six referred to the district the officer was assigned to and to easily identify the equipment she needed and avoid mix-ups among the workers.
Police yesterday revealed that the Sixx gang territory was St Paul Street, Laventille Road, Lower Gonzales Belmont areas; Seven was Duncan Street, Beetham, Sea Lots, Lower Nelson Street and Belle Eau Road, Belmont; and Upper Nelson and George Streets were the Muslim gang region but also featured some Sixx elements as well.
Admitting no place is safe, Trim said, “There are some places that are just more dangerous than others.”
One such place is Warren Street, St Augustine, where he said, “There is a part where postmen can no longer go and can no longer serve. It has come to that state.
“It is no longer Enterprise. It is no longer Beetham. It is no longer Picton, even though it still remains hot, but now you have Oropune, Carapo, Pinto, Arima and so on.”
Asked what alternatives could be offered to persons living in such communities now, he suggested cluster box arrangements just outside warring areas.
He said TTPost could also look at employing people who come from those areas but admitted even that could pose a challenge.
He pointed to Laventille, where male postal workers could no longer operate, as he said gang leaders only allow women to enter the community.
He estimated that between 250-300 incidents had been recorded against TTPost workers during the last ten years.
Contacted yesterday, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales said the memo leak was unfortunate but said it was a matter they continued to grapple with every day.
“It is clear that the appropriate action was being taken to ensure the safety of workers. I am very concerned about the safety of all utility workers as they go about their daily work routine. The TTPS has always been very supportive when called upon from time to time when security matters do arise,” Gonzales said.
Meanwhile, senior Port-of-Spain Division officers admitted a similar pattern was observed among vendors and hustlers on the streets of the capital.
An officer said many of the young men are unable to go into certain geographic locations due to ongoing gang warfare, while moves were being made by criminals in the East Port-of-Spain Plannings to take control of Charlotte Street and environs.