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COHA: Gangs are the new law in T&T

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

COHA: Gangs are the new law in T&T

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WASHINGTON (CMC) – A major think tank here claims gangs are the “new law” in urban Trinidad and Tobago, saying that recent incidents of intense violence in the twin-island republic have drawn attention to the “rampant gang problem”.
In a new report, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) said the September 11 “ruthless beheading” of a man – reported by the police as a warning from gang members – “exemplified a recent increase in the already significant brutality of gang activity in Port-of-Spain”.
“There is now a trend towards this so-called ‘South American method of warfare’, in which beheadings and other extreme forms of violence are the norm in dealing with rival gangs and in which only 14.3 per cent of Trinidad and Tobago’s youth is confident in its satisfaction with the police force,” it said.
Additionally, COHA noted that mid-August saw an incident in which six people were killed in a 24-hour period in a “turf war that drew the level of attention and press focus usually reserved for gang activity in more developed countries”.
COHA claimed that gang activity in Caribbean nations has “largely been ignored, despite the fact that gangs in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have become so ubiquitous that they represent a challenge to state sovereignty.”
It said that the government’s decision to “simply amp up the police force is not likely to hinder Trinidad’s persistent gang presence.
“Violence is a serious problem in the islands, but targeting this alone will not make an effective reform,” it said, adding that “gangs in Trinidad and Tobago, specifically in high-risk areas, like the capital and Laventille, “have become so institutionalized that they pose a threat to – and even control in some cases – the republic’s crucial infrastructures.”
COHA said that gangs in the Caribbean, namely in Trinidad and Jamaica, have a “very unusual and ultimately far more dangerous effect on their surrounding areas”.
The think tank said there are currently over 100 gangs in Trinidad and Tobago, which has a total population of just over 1 300 000.