Police and army on joint patrol to curb crime in Trinidad and Tobago - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Police and army on joint patrol to curb crime in Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago’s national security minister Gary Griffith has dismissed rumors of the possible presence of a rogue armed militia group operating in the Caribbean nation.

“What I can tell you is that any organization involved in the sourcing or supplying of illegal arms or ammunition will feel the full brunt of law enforcement. As Minister I would like to caution the lawless against putting God out of their thoughts as the response will not be something that should be contemplated or trifled with.”

It was triggered by the execution style killing of Lance corporal Kayode Thomas who was gunned down on his way to visit his mother in the crime hot spot community of Laventille last Sunday.

Commander Garvin Heerah (Courtesy photo)

Commander Garvin Heerah (Courtesy photo)

By the next day, fellow soldiers swooped down on the community; a presence that had residents peeved and fussing about the soldiers’ illegal patrolling of their space. Soldiers do not have powers of arrest and by law, cannot patrol anywhere in the absence of police officers who have the powers of arrest.

Even the media was threatened by the heavily armed soldiers when they sought to ask questions about their presence in the Laventille community.

And now the energy rich Caribbean nation’s national security minister felt obligated to apologize to all those affected by the actions of the soldiers. Griffith is also known as Captain Gary Griffith. His previous career as a soldier earned him the title.

33-year-old Thomas was ambushed in the notorious area known as John by gun men who fired over 30 bullets into his silver-colored Mazda 323 car according to a Newsday report on the killing. Police say they found over 30 spent shells at the crime scene.

Griffith said he now wants soldiers and police based at every corner of crime hot spots. He told Baltimore Post-Examiner his national security ministry has the machinery to deal with the crime challenge.

“The Ministry of National Security has every national security development under close watch and the national security apparatus is prepared to deal with whatever comes. That the government has no control over what others might consider or attempt, but absolute confidence in our ability to respond to any threat regardless of from where it comes.”

He said the national security ministry monitors multiple threats posed to citizens; suspected threats and allegations of threats on a daily basis. These threats, “real or imagined” are investigated diligently once a complaint is made the national security minister said.

Accusations by some members of the public that there is a potential rogue armed militia were dismissed by Griffith who sees such rumors being reminiscent of the events which led to the 1990 coup in Trinidad and Tobago.

Gary Griffith

Gary Griffith

“Rumors like these prey on the people’s fear of what took place in 1990. Let me assure you and the entire national community, there will never be a repeat of 1990; especially on my watch. Not even close. Due in no small part to the amalgamation of Intelligence agencies, the formation of the Special Operations Group , the improved quality of our law enforcement agencies and the establishment of the NOC whereby all agencies are now working much closer and acquiring intelligence in real time, such a repeat would not exist.”

Head of the national operations centre (NOC) Garvin Heerah told BPE the national security ministry is responsible for intelligence gathering and will maximize their resources to treat with all rumors.
“The NOC  is focused on intelligence gathering and sharing. At this time we have all agencies focused on all matters before us for investigation, and are maximizing our resources to treat with this and every other rumor or complaint. We are aware of the allegations made and are working diligently to prove or disprove the veracity of the complaints. Rest assured, any and all incidents of lawlessness found will be rooted out and all of their criminal apparatus destroyed.”

Heerah assured that the TTPS has its eye on groups led by nefarious elements throughout the country. “The TTPS has not identified any one individual – but there are a number of persons of interest that are occupying places of high attention with the intelligence forces.”

As far as Heerah is concerned, any group that poses enough of a threat to violently disturb the peace of citizens would be regarded as a gang. He has every confidence that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service will exercise a zero tolerance approach towards anyone or group forming themselves into gangs.

“The TTPS has no need of any support from any group or individual, armed or unarmed. Any group that by its composition or threat level to the population’s peace of mind can be considered a gang.”

But there are rogue elements within the armed forces, so how does a rogue militia entity get firearms and funding?

“Through the TTPS and joint agency approach they are addressing all issues regarding the smuggling and import of illegal arms and have already made great strides in this regard. Any group or organization wiling to test the resolve of law enforcement will be answered with professional policing, dedicated interdiction and superior firepower at every step” Heerah assured.

The national operations centre (NOC) was set up to serve like a bridge between ministries to coordinate efforts, especially in case of occurrences that can equate to a national disaster or pose a threat to citizens.

National security minister Griffith promised to flood all crime hot spot areas with soldiers accompanied by police as an immediate strategy to help curb crime in Trinidad and Tobago.

About the author

Marcia Braveboy

Marcia Braveboy is a journalist from Grenada based in Trinidad and Tobago. She has over 20 years experience in media; mainly in copy writing, news and broadcast journalism. Braveboy was a senior reporter at Power 102 FM radio, CNC3 television and producer of the investigative Frontline program on CCN’s i95.5 FM talk-radio station. You can follow Marcia on Twitter: @mbraveboy Contact the author.

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