Police Commissioner Gary Griffith (centre) on police exercise. (TTPS Picture)
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PORT OF SPAIN – The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) Thursday vowed to deal with the “punks, thieves, parasites and cockroaches’ as it raised with “immediate effect” the policing alert from “Amber to Red” as a result of the ongoing gang activities and murders here.
“What we are doing is steeping up what is required to ensure that you are safe and secure. So there is a concept of operation that is nationwide,” Police Commissioner Gary Griffith told a news conference, adding that the police believe “there may be a perceived threat” based on “one or two specific individuals”.
“I refer to them as punks, thieves, parasites, cockroaches and have continued to destabilise our country and to prevent our citizens from having a safe and secure society.
“We will continue at this level until we peg them back. Let them know exactly that no gang in any part of this country, no turf, no street, no community belongs to them (and) that gives them the authority that they could put hits on persons or believe that they have the authority to put the law into their own hands.”
Griffith said that the alert state would remain “as is (and), we will continue to peg back these criminal elements”.
On Wednesday, National Security Minister Stuart Young announced plans for a major security operation here and warned nationals to be prepared for some level of inconvenience as the law enforcement authorities move to tackle various crimes including murder in Trinidad and Tobago.
“I am not going to divulge the particulars at this time. Those are operational matters, I am sure at the appropriate time the Commissioner of Police and others will address it,” he told a news conference, adding that it was no longer acceptable for the law enforcement agencies to be reacting to what’s taking place in the country.
Last year 516 people were killed and so far this year, at least 70 people have been murdered.
Griffith told reporters that he led a police exercise on the outskirts of the capital on Wednesday where several persons had been detained and warned persons throughout the country that the police would not tolerate any form of disobedience when arrests of gang and so-called community leaders are made.
“I wish to advise the public and to let the media be aware that if any of them put God past their thoughts this time around I am waiting on them.
“No area could feel that they so big and bad that if we arrest any gang leader you feel that you have the authority . . . I will be walking in with several paddy wagons and anyone who breaks the law, if they are in love with their gang leaders, they will accompany them, they will join them.
“Nobody has the authority to block roads, no one has the authority to take the law into their own hands. Having said that I wish to give the assurance, we will not profile, target any individual based on what they may have done.
“Everything we are doing is intelligence driven and the operations will be based on that. It is not a case of us just deliberately trying to intimidate or harass anyone. What we would be doing is to peg back criminal elements and to look at those specific areas where individuals continue to utilise their resources, their troops and feel they can actually work above the law.”
He said “if and when” the police believe that the operations have been successful, the country would revert to “Amber”.
But Griffith, a former national security minister, said that he was also sending a warning to the relatives of those persons engaged in gang violence here.
“This is a one way ticket to hell. It is either they are going to be arrested or end up dead sooner or later,” he said, adding “I will ask all persons who really care about your loved ones, you cannot just be turning a blind eye because of financial gain.
“You are going to lose your loved one sooner or later. Money cannot be the value of your loved one and I speak to this to all of the individuals who are fully aware of their sons turning to a life of crime and becoming influenced because they are naïve enough to be operating on behalf of the gang leaders.
“These gang leaders stay in their lofty towers. They stay untouchable and they give directives to these other young persons to lose their lives and they benefit. I asked these young persons stop being used and manipulated by these pests in our society.”
Griffith told the news conference that the police were also concerned that many people who had been arrested on gun related charges were finding themselves out on the streets very soon afterwards on bail.
He said while he had no intention of directing or demanding the authorities to deal with the situation, “I can only recommend”.
“At the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service we have to adhere to the law. If the law gives the authority that persons who have firearms, a firearm that could . . . have 35 rounds that could be sprayed in a few seconds where dozens of persons could be killed . . . and after being arrested by the police . . . you see it fit that you could give, send this person out on bail, then those persons I would ask them to look in the mirror.
“I am trying to do a job. We at the police service are trying to do a job, it makes it very difficult for us when persons are being held with firearms . . . and being given bail as easy as it comes. It is a revolving door. It makes it very difficult for the police service.
“All I could do is to write and make these requests because we have a duty and an obligation to protect and serve. It is difficult for us to protect and serve when we arrest these individuals and they are just given a get out of jail free card literally every time we arrest them,” the Police Commissioner said. (CMC)