The T&T Police Service (TTPS) has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of people behind the acts of theft and vandalism that have been taking place at essential utility locations in recent weeks.
In announcing this during a media briefing at the Ministry of National Security in Port-of-Spain yesterday, acting Police Commissioner Mc Donald Jacob said the increasing incidents, which disrupted telecommunications, water and electricity services, are now threatening national security.
He said the acts had moved beyond simple vandalism.
Jacob said the TTPS had investigated a total of 192 such reports over the past two and a half years.
Pointing out that 139 people had been arrested and charged, including two scrap-yard dealers (one in Trinidad and another in Tobago), the CoP said, “But the acts continue and that is the reason why we strongly believe that it is beyond the question of just larceny.”
Referring to a recent incident at Cross Crossing, San Fernando, in which thieves made off with more than a hundred thousand dollars worth of cable and mistakenly vandalised TSTT’s fibre optic cables in the process, Jacob said, “What I saw there was beyond theft.”
He said the situation has now, “moved from just larceny to malicious damage.”
Revealing just how the theft had adversely impacted the TTPS among others, he explained, “The TTPS last weekend had no other alternative but to call out additional officers to work in the Southern and South Western Divisions because of that communication situation that occurred, whereby those copper wires and fibre optic cables being cut and removed created a significant security risk for the citizens of T&T if they wished to communicate with the police.”
He said they were forced to implement an emergency plan in respect of the two divisions, which led to additional officers being called out.
Regarding the electrical theft at the Water and Sewerage Authority’s (WASA) California Booster Station on Thursday, which resulted in the facility being disabled, Jacob said the team of investigators appointed to probe the incident had reported similar findings, which reinforced strong opinions that it was beyond larceny and was definitely malicious damage.
Hinting that there are more serious intentions behind the ongoing acts, Jacob said when citizens are without reliable water, electrical and telecommunication services, they often opt to demonstrate their anger and displeasure through protests and demonstrations which further disrupt national activities.
“We have viewed this situation as definitely being a security risk for T&T which is affecting the national security network and we firmly believe at this stage…with the consent of the Ministry of National Security, we have decided to offer a reward of $100,000 for information that can lead to the arrest and prosecution of the persons who are responsible,” Jacob said.
The public is urged to contact 555 or 800-TIPS to report information.
Assuring that additional measures will also be introduced in the coming days at all public utility locations, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said the T&T Defence Force (TTDF) had also been asked to provide soldiers to assist in the heightened patrols, especially in areas where there may be state infrastructure which could be targeted.
He encouraged citizens to “reach out and touch that very generous reward,” noting it would go a long way in placing the criminal elements where they ought to be. He said Section 21 of the Malicious Damage Act spoke to the protection of the state’s public utilities.