The T&T Police Service (TTPS) is advising that the public may soon face some level of inconvenience when accessing Port-of-Spain for work and leisure, as officers renew their efforts to curb a recent spike in criminal activity in the capital.
Speaking during the weekly TTPS media briefing at the Police Administration Building in Port-of-Spain yesterday, Snr Supt Rishi Singh said, “There has been the conscious decision that in the coming weeks, in order to get our detections up, citizens are definitely going to have to understand that there is the likelihood of some inconvenience that is going to have be borne as we ramp up certain operations, but we are confident that this ramping up is definitely going to attend to the safety in a way that we frequently experience during mass events.”
Singh, who heads the PoS Criminal Investigations Department and Criminal Records Office (CID/CRO), admitted, “Within the recent weeks, we have seen some alarming issues happening in the heart of our city.”
Assuring the public that they are very much aware of what is happening, Singh added, “It is of serious concern to us as the Police Service, to the extent that the Commissioner has called together all the various internal and external stakeholders to address the initiatives, to fulfil our mandate of safety and security in Port-of-Spain.”
He said while this may sound like the rhetoric many are accustomed to hearing, the TTPS does, in fact, take its responsibilities very seriously.
Pointing out that Port-of-Spain is a central business district bordered by housing schemes which have their own challenges as depressed communities, Singh said, “What we are witnessing is that the persons that are involved in gang activity have now felt the confidence to access persons who they normally will not, within the context of the streets of Port-of-Spain.”
While the TTPS has tried to minimise the intrusion on citizens created by crime-fighting strategies in the past, Singh said this will change in the coming weeks as officers have been asked to ramp up efforts to return safety and security to the capital’s streets.
On July 30, Nathan Thomas, of St Paul Street, was gunned down around 4 am as he stood at the corner of Henry Street and Independence Square. This was followed by the killing of Shakiri Henry at the corner of George and Queen Streets on July 29 around 3.45 pm. This sparked calls from Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez and Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) president Gregory Aboud for more patrols and security for the capital.
Addressing concerns that gun-toting bandits and killers also possess more sophisticated weapons than police, Singh said while it is intimidating, it is not enough to deter officers from doing their job.
“Being intimidated doesn’t mean that we will be propelled into inaction,” he assured.
On the extent of migrant infiltration and influence on local gangs, Singh said, “Yes, there are issues, though minor, at the moment…where persons who are migrants have influence on the crime landscape of T&T.”
As Singh was updating the media, DOMA president Aboud was meeting with acting Police Commissioner Mc Donald Jacob two floors up on the issue of security in the capital.
Speaking in the lobby following the hour-long meeting, Aboud said, “He is taking another look at the arrangements in downtown Port-of-Spain.”
He said DOMA had offered up some ideas, as had Jacob.
“Our position is that before we can discuss solutions, we need a very careful diagnosis of the problem,” Aboud said, adding the TTPS and DOMA were, “trying to collaborate in a way that will bring some meaningful benefit to the city of PoS.”
“The work has to be done if we want to save our capital city and if we want to guarantee that the current decline is arrested,” Aboud said.
“You can’t have mothers and their children coming to buy schoolbooks and being robbed, that is simply totally unacceptable and will not, while we are still here, be tolerated. We have to interdict against that on the basis of shared decency and human rights and self-respect.”